The Future Technology Lab of the University of Turku (UTU) Finland held an interactive demonstration on how to manufacture smart toy cars in Namibia at the University of Namibia’s main campus. The event attracted an interdisciplinary audience from different industries and walks of life. It was hosted by Mr. Gideon Katjimba from Kunene General Company (KGC) in Opuwo.
Katjimba, who is a grade 8 graduate started off the company with 3 other individuals that were passionate about making smart toy cars. The company was formed on the 25th of August 2017. During its early days, Katjimba and the co-founders faced a lot of problems to get the business up and running. With no support from their family and friends, and little to no start-up capital they were able to persevere against the odds and keep the business running to date. “People were criticizing us and they thought that we were bewitched. We then started collecting waste materials from the dumpsites,” mentioned Katjimbi.
Smart toy cars are made from metal sheets. Other raw materials that are used are LED lights and wires. Katjimba plans to incorporate robotics for the vehicles to be self-operating by installing sensors to detect distance. The first smart toy car they sold was in 2018 at a trade fare of about N$ 150.00 – N$ 200.00. Currently, the price of one car is N$ 400.00.
For the interactive demonstration, Katjimba worked alongside students from the University of Namibia (UNAM) and NUST to design a robotic car that represented Namibia. The goal was to combine African heritage and robotics.
KGC’s vision for the future includes making bicycles, wheelchairs, and wheelbarrows. They are seemingly well on their way to achieving that. They would also like to make trailers for cars. They have made a two-meter square container using car parts where they can make smart toy cars.
Robotics can contribute to the socio-economic growth of Namibia. This will be achieved with the help of universities by creating conducive spaces for this to take place. “Universities we need to reform, we need to relearn.’’ Stated Prof Erkki Sutinen from the University of Turku (UTU) Finland. As of date, Namibia might not be able to mass produce smart toy cars but they might investigate customization to keep up with international competition and capitalize on the industry.