“We Should Respect The Robot,” or There is no Great Stagnation in the DRC

The “Democratic” Republic of the Congo is in desperate need of positive technology and productivity shocks, but I’m not sure if these new robo-cops are the low hanging fruit that Tyler Cowen talks about:


But they are an interesting attempt at taming Kinshasa’s crazy traffic.  The robots are essentially solar-powered traffic lights with surveillance cameras.  They tower over the public (obviously from the photo), they can turn at the waist and take pictures, and they have green and red lights in their hands.  To me they seem like a cross between ominous and funny.

While made of aluminum, they are supposedly engineered to withstand the DRC’s tropical climate.  I initially imagined them as rusted out hulks after a rainy season.  And speaking of engineering, the newest models of the robots were engineered by  a group of female engineers in Kinshasa.

The motorists interviewed by the AP journalist seemed pleased with thew new cops (there are several across town and they each have a name!).  One taxi driver reports: “There are certain drivers who don’t respect the traffic police. But with the robot it will be different. We should respect the robot.”

The governor was less enthusiastic, noting that traffic police need to do their job and that robots cannot chase down motorists who run red lights.  At least not yet… Ladies, did you hear the challenge the governor just threw down??  Now that would be terrifying.  A larger than life robot that turns and chases you down for traffic violations?  That would keep those crazy motorists in line.