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Self-proclaimed “President of Somali TikTokers” is Nervous about his Financial Future

Somalia’s ban on TikTok, which is set to take effect on Thursday evening, has outraged many users who make a living off the app. Bilaal Bulshaawi, one of the prominent faces on Somali social media, says the app has totally transformed his life. “Before, there were many times when I couldn’t afford to pay for a tuk-tuk ride but now I drive a car and enjoy my luxury lifestyle. I travel to different Somali regions for tourism,” Bilaal told the BBC. He started using the platform when he was an 18-year-old high school student making short comedy videos with his classmates. But the popularity of his films snowballed and they have now become his main source of income. Bilaal makes money by advertising businesses on his account, which has 1.3 million followers. The adverts generate between $500 and $1000 a week. He uses the money to pay rent, buy food and to pay his mother’s bills. But the government seems determined to go ahead with the plan to prevent access to TikTok along with Telegram and gambling app 1XBet. It argues that these platforms are being used by “terrorists and groups responsible for spreading immorality”.