Today I happened to be in a Caffè shop in Garowe, Puntland, Somalia, enjoying a cup of cappuccino when an elderly man entered the space. He started addressing customers to solicit for his financial needs and pleas for help. It is my turn to hear him. The problem here in Somalia is that nobody has or uses local Somali Shillings as the currency had lost its value and almost its relevance in today’s Somali economy. The national currency has been replaced effectively by electronic US dollars accessed on smartphones with accounts through all major Hawillaad money transfer agencies and local telecommunication companies. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to assist someone in need with change from someone’s own pocket.

As a plan, I often carry on me some spare change in case I need sundry expenses like shoe-shining. So I had a bundle of Shs.So. old banknotes when the elderly begger approached me.

I was holding my phone in my right hand when I used my left hand to fish out some Somali Shilling banknotes from my left pant pocket to hand out to him. The man looked at me surprisingly without stretching out his hand towards me. Equally surprised, I asked him, “you don’t want it?” He calmly asked me, “why don’t you give me that with your right hand?”

Another man nearby who was observing my rather awkward situation jumped in to say, “he is right. Why do you give him that with the left hand?” In self-defence I asked them, “do you know whether I am left-handed?” The two were taken aback to consider my question.

BEGGERS have choices here in Somalia and they can refuse your assistance if there are strings attached to it, be well advised.


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