You may have heard about the humanoid traffic control robots in Kinshasa recently. When the news came out, I thought it was interesting. The robot, affectionately known as robocop, can regulate the flow of vehicles and of pedestrians, combining the functions of traffic officer and traffic lights at the same time. I’ve not been to Kinshasa, but I’d guess that traffic there is not much better than in Lagos – so, a robot like this is to be welcomed, don’t you think? But last week I learned something more about this out-of-Africa innovation, and I thought it was worth bringing to the table:
The inventor of this robot is Thérèse Izay Kirongozi, an industrial engineer in electronics, and her Women’s Technology Association (Wotech) makes the robots. This is quite an accomplishment to be celebrated if we consider that in a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) only 10.7 percent of adult women and 36.2 percent of men have gained a secondary or tertiary level of education, and that the DRC ranks 147 out of 187 countries in the Gender Inequality Index Rank 2013.
Obvious as it may be, it hadn’t hit me that a traffic control robot is not susceptible to corrupt practices. This is also to be celebrated considering that the DRC ranks 152 out of 174 countries included in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014.
Could traffic control robots be classified a grassroots innovation? These are needs-driven innovations generated to address the problems faced by indigenous communities, with the potential to provide solutions to contemporary problems, and which tend to use greener techniques (read more about this in an earlier post). In fact, these robots meet the need for a corruption-free traffic control system; their potential is not limited to the DRC or SSA but may be used in other regions; and they are solar powered.
For more on African inventors and out-of-Africa innovations, take a look at the Kumatoo website, an Association located in Pointe-Noire, in the Republic of the Congo and dedicated to the industrialization of the African continent through its inventors.