As part of the activities at the World Economic Forum, on Wednesday, the Institute of National Museums in Rwanda joined hands with the Victoria and Albert Museum London to hold an exhibition.
Dubbed ‘AfroBots’, the exhibition saw the Natural History Museum (Kigali) showcase African robotics with the aim of digitising transformations in design on the continent.
Rarely seen robotic samples from across Africa were put on display, including the AziBot, the Fundi-Walker, a Bird Bot, SpiderBot, and a DogBot.
The digital specimen are generously provided by leading African academic departments of science, robotics and engineering as well as informal ‘maker spaces’ for amateur inventors. Many of the prototypes incorporate animal characteristics, playing with the boundaries of the physical, digital and the biological.
Alphonse Umuliisa, the director-general of Rwanda Museums, said the exhibition was among the projects that are going to be achieved through strong partnerships.
“We signed a memorandum of understanding with Victoria and Albert Museum London, which has led to this simple project that opens our eyes to bigger projects. Building partnerships is about building capacity, and capacity building is not only about education only or other technical assistance, it’s also about exchanging stuff. This is why we are looking forward to come up with other important initiatives,” he said.
Umuliisa said showcasing emerging technologies like the robots opens people’s eyes to a wider view and be able to think outside the box.
“The role of the museum toward showcasing these innovative technologies is to bring knowledge among people and force them to think differently on how they can make money, for instance, without using traditional ways,” he added.
The exhibition challenges the common belief that the world’s future is being discovered in the high-tech laboratories of American scientific institutes, or debated at business and political forums held in alps – and invites all the people to think about the future as being designed by technology communities in Africa.
Martin Roth, the director of Victoria and Albert Museum, said such exhibitions of technological innovations also challenge “the way we think about the real technology”.
“It was really fruitful partnering with Rwanda museums. This exhibition is just an idea of what we are planning ahead. However, it’s also important to note that these technology displays give us another image of how we should think about technology; when you see, for instance, the SpiderBot dancing, you can’t immediately tell what it is, but it looks fun and, on the other hand, saves people in different circumstances,” Roth said.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Nortey, the brains behind some of the innovations that were showcased at the museum, said robots have the multi-disciplinary abilities to help the people, adding that in the African context, it would be critical if they can be used to teach African students.
“These amazing technologies can work really extra hard, we have seen them in advanced countries working in security agencies, being used to perform tasks in industries and many other fields. However, as Africans we need to, first of all, use them to develop our education sector and later alone things will be easier,” Nortey, who’s also the founder of MINT Innovations, said.