Thérèse Kirongozi

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Thérèse Kirongozi
Traffic robot.jpg
The Traffic Robot being presented to Dr. Jill Biden and Cathy Russell by Thérèse Izay Kirongozi in Kinshasa in July 2014
Thérèse Kirongozi

(1973-06-03) 3 June 1973 (age 46)
Other namesIzay
OccupationIndustrial Engineer, Entrepreneur
Years active2013
Known forHumanoid Traffic Robots Inventor

Thérèse Izay, an engineer from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, designed traffic robots that were initially placed in two locations in Kinshasa[1] towards the end of 2013.[2] By 2015 five robot traffic police were in use in Kinshasa[3] and one in Lubumbashi.[4] The use of robots as traffic lights may be unique to the Democratic Republic of Congo.[1] [note 1] Izay hopes the government will help by providing funds to produce more robots.[1]

Early life[edit]

Izay was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo on June 3rd, 1973. During a press interview, Izay revealed that she did not expect to have such an aura in the field of technology, although she had always dreamed of inventing a device that would reduce the rate of road accidents, since she saw her brother crushed by a vehicle in her early childhood. This shock of losing a being so dear following a road traffic regulation problem will never leave her again and will be her leitmotif in the electronic world. Thus, when in 1993, when she had just blown her twentieth candle and expected to embrace the modeling career, the young Izay quickly responded to the call of a model recruitment agency in Switzerland who sparked a better tomorrow. She had to disappoint after the illusion of "mirificent contracts". "Finally, my father enrolled me at ISTA, while I wanted to pursue my studies in Europe, in another area, and I mistakenly thought that industrial electronics would not solve my problems," she recalls. an interview with pan-African magazine Jeune Afrique.[5]


Thérèse Izay is a pure product of the Congolese school. She did all her studies in Kinshasa, her hometown, before starting, without enthusiasm, undergraduate studies at the Higher Institute of Applied Techniques (Ista). Nothing predestined her for a career as inventor and entrepreneur. [6]


The idea for the robots first came to a couple of female engineers at the Kinshasa Higher Institute of Applied Technique a few years back. (The group has since bonded together to form Women’s Technology, now a small magnet for Congolese female engineers, and has filed for a patent on their mechanical, traffic-directing bots.) One of the women, Thérèse Izay Kirongozi, told reporters she was motivated by the ease with which people could speed, run red lights, and so on, fleeing or bribing their way out of fines with impunity. She wanted something more reliable and incorruptible on the roads than mere fallible humans. Robots, she thought, could make sure that people were accountable to the rule of law and help the state to recoup much needed cash, potentially funding further infrastructure developments. Izay Kirongozi also claims she was especially concerned with pedestrian (and particularly child) safety on the capital’s newly refurbished, but poorly controlled traffic arteries. [7]


The local population has accepted the robots enthusiastically.[1][3] An editorial writer, Sam Sturgis, while acknowledging the improvement the robots bring to traffic flow, suggested that they may divert attention from the problem of the unregulated growth of the city on the periphery.[8] ‘People on the streets apparently respect the robots in a way that they don’t follow directions from human traffic cops at one of Kinshasa’s busy intersections,’ says Brian Sokol, photographer of Panos Pictures. [9] Another example for a taxi driver interviewed by Agence_France-Presse, “There are certain drivers who don’t respect the traffic police. But with the robot it will be different. We should respect the robot. We’re very happy about it,” he said, his taxi packed with passengers as drivers around him honked their horns in a desperate bid to cut through the traffic jam. [10]


The Congolese government has been so impressed with the robots that as of February they installed three more units for Kinshasa (Women’s Technology has dubbed them Kisanga, Mwaluke, and Tamuke) and sent five to the southeastern mining district of Katanga, at a cost of $27,500 per machine. These new bots will supposedly react more quickly than earlier models and feature speed radars. If the expansion works out, it will indicate that the success of the first two robots was about more than shock factor and novelty. Izay Kirongozi told the Agence France-Presse that she has already submitted a proposal to the country for purchasing an additional 30 traffic robots, which will hopefully pay for themselves in decreased accident costs and increased fines, and replace unreliable human cops on the cheap. [11] A claimed advantage of the robots is that, unlike local traffic police, they are immune to bribery. Their human-like appearance is also considered to encourage drivers to slow down more than a simple sign. General Celestin Kanyama, chief of Kinshasa’s police force, said the new electronic cops were a welcome addition in a city where 2,276 people have died in traffic accidents since 2007. “These robots will be an important asset for the police,” he told AFP. But Kinshasa governor Andre Kimbuta said that while the machines could regulate traffic, they were no match for real policemen who could chase motorists who jump red lights and raise civic awareness. “We should congratulate our Congolese engineers, but policemen also need to do their job,” he said. [12]


Thérèse has developed humanoid robots that regulate traffic in Kinshasa. "There are several robots in the world, but a robot that regulates road traffic and ensures the safety of pedestrians, it's really made in Congo," she proudly says. [13] She is an industrial engineer in electronics, and the head of Women's Technology (Wotech), the association that is manufacturing these robots. Tamuke, Mwaluke and Kisanga are the names given to the last three robots developed by Thérèse Izay and her team. They were purchased by the police authorities and handed over on March 4, 2015. [14] There are at least 5 of them that are regulating traffic in Kinshasa.

The new generation of robots conceived by the inventor has cameras set in their “eyes” and “shoulders” that film traffic continuously. Thanks to the antenna fixed on top of their head, data can be transmitted to a control center via an Internet Protocol (IP) transmission. Thérèse Izay is already envisioning the manufacturing of robot soldiers, road cleaning robots, robots that can intervene in a toxic environment, etc. She is the proof that women have an important role to play in the industrialization process of the African continent, and that they are just as talented as men. [15]

Design and Cost[edit]

The first generation of robots was commissioned in 2013 and cost about 15,000 dollars each to manufacture, while the latest generation unveiled on march 4, 2015, cost about 27,500 dollars each. They weigh 250 kg each, are 2.5 meters high and are made of aluminium to better withstand the equatorial climate. The autonomy of the robots is provided by a solar panel placed over their head. The solar panels that power the robots could prove a major asset in a city where whole districts still lack electrical power. Made of aluminium, the robots are designed to resist a harsh equatorial climate with high temperatures, humidity and massive downpours. [16] These humanoid traffic robots can rotate their chest and raise their arms like a human traffic officer would do to stop vehicles in one direction, and allow their flow in another one. Some of these robots can detect pedestrians and are programmed to “speak” to tell them when the road can be crossed or not. When they wait to cross, he sings a song that recalls the principles of road traffic. [17] The first goal is to implement the humanoid robots all around Kinshasa, but to achieve this, according to some experts, it is necessary to mobilize 12 million US dollars, because Kinshasa has about 600 strategic and dangerous intersections, the price of a robot oscillating between 10,000 and 20,000 USD, including the cost of maintenance. [18]

Expansion and Projects[edit]

After two prototypes installed in 2013, three "new generation" robots were delivered to the capital in March, and five to the Katangese authorities, including three in Lubumbashi. "This is a positive thing ... in the business of road safety," said Val Manga, head of the National Road Safety Commission. "We need to multiply these intelligent robots to install them at various intersections in the towns and urban agglomerations of our country. [19] The selling price of a unit is around 25,000 dollars (about 22,000 euros) and varies according to the autonomy of its solar panels. Society does not fall asleep on its laurels; the company is developing and evolving its technology. "The robot sends the police, in real time, the images filmed by its cameras. We use a radio beam, but eventually we will switch to fiber optics. The transmission of images will be much faster, "says the project manager. An "intelligent" traffic cop robot has been installed in the city of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Local residents seem enthusiastic about the robot, which replaces Lubumbashi's traffic police and also has surveillance cameras to observe traffic offences, regional broadcaster Nyota says. It comes the year after two similar solar-powered robots were set up at intersections in the capital city Kinshasa, attracting attention at the time. However, there are some worries about whether the robots will be maintained properly, given that many of Lubumbashi's traffic lights have fallen into disrepair, UN-sponsored Radio Okapi reports. [20]

Several other Congolese cities want to acquire these automata. And Women's Technologies also intends to export. Angola, Congo, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are interested. When is the presence of the first humanoid agents made in DR Congo in these countries? "The talks are very advanced," says the head of the company. [21] She now hopes other countries will follow suit. She would, for example, like to see these "robots Made in Congo" in New York. "That's my dream. I dream big," she recently told Radio Okapi. [22]


  1. ^ Anthropomorphic, non-robotic figures have often been used, notably in Germany, to indicate roadworks. Their human-like appearance is considered to encourage drivers to slow down more than a simple sign.


  1. ^ a b c d Traffic Robots in the Democratic Republic of Congo
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Therese Izay Krongozi
  4. ^ DR Congo: Traffic cop robot installed in 'second capital'
  5. ^ Forum des As
  6. ^ RDC : Thérèse Izay et son robot 100 % « made in Kin »
  7. ^ Idea and organization
  8. ^ The Case Against Giant Traffic Robots
  9. ^ The Guardian article on Traffic Robots in Congo
  10. ^ The Guardian article on Traffic Robots in Congo
  11. ^ Congolese Government on Traffic robots
  12. ^ The Guardian article on Traffic Robots in Congo
  13. ^ Forum des As
  14. ^ Traffic Robots by Thereze Kirongozi
  15. ^ Thérèse Izay Kirongozi
  16. ^ The traffic robots of Kinshasa
  17. ^ Forum des As
  18. ^ Forum des As
  19. ^ The traffic robots of Kinshasa
  20. ^
  21. ^ RDC : Thérèse Izay et son robot 100 % « made in Kin »
  22. ^

External links[edit]