By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Millet-stalk truck with its maker, Hamisi Mbegwe, Zaramo peoples, Tanzania, 1985. Photo by Diane Pelrine. 

Young boys in Africa are particularly skilled at manufacturing toys out of discarded materials.  They fashion motorcycles from the colorful cans condensed milk is sold in, or make airplanes of millet stalks and trucks and cars of discarded wire and rubber inner tube strips.  Children in Africa make toys that represent the trucks, motorcycles, and airplanes they see wealthy or important people using, and so these toys, like little girls dolls, represent hopes for status and well-being in the future.  Some of these "recycled" toys are so creative Europeans collect them, and boys earn good incomes selling them to tourists.