Procrastination involves one individual but African time involves the society.
I was invited for a wedding scheduled for 9am and proposed to end 11am before proceeding for the reception which was scheduled for 12noon. According to the order of events, we were expecting to shut-down by 3pm. I was at the wedding by 8:50am and the hall was extremely scanty. The bride procession did not start till 10:30am (30minutes to the “supposed closing time”) because they were waiting for the hall to get full before starting. The reception started by 2:45 and the wedding ended around 6 o’clock. Attendees kept murmuring
“I knew they would not start by 9.”
“Thank God we came by 10, we were even early, if we came by 9 we’d have just sat down waiting till God knows when.”
“I told you nobody will come by 9”
All sorts of accusations and comments kept flying around. Funnily, 80% of the population was busy waiting for the other set of people to converge before coming and in the end no one came on time. This same attitude has been directed towards seminars, trainings, meetings and events generally. We labeled it African Time.
African time is a colloquial term used to describe a perceived cultural tendency. It is a relaxed attitude towards time. It is worse than procrastination because procrastination involves just an individual but African time involves the society. It has become a culture, a way of life. It is used in negative sense about tardiness in appointment, meetings and events.
It is a disguised form of procrastination because events are supposed to commence at a particular time but they are deferred to a later time because the invitees and participants have decided to come late.
Most Africans do not have value for time, they do things at their own time and this is what has contributed to the stagnation of this blessed continent, Africa. An event with almost a thousand people invited is due to commence at 10a.m., 900 people will remain where they are and say ‘people will not be there yet, they will start by 11:30’. What is the possibility of starting without your presence if 900 people are busy bending time and doing nothing? The host will be disappointed and have no choice than to start the ceremony later than the time planned and those that even came early will look down on the host and start practicing the African time mentality because you forced them to. The most annoying part of the whole situation is that when you ask the guest their reason for coming late, no sensible answer is given they just smile, shrug and say ‘African time’. If everyone decides to keep to African time who will be present at any event on time? It is a very bad trend that is slowing down the development of Africa.
When you do things late, you either loose an opportunity or things slow down for you. Effective time managers and successful people are synonymous for keeping to time. An appointment must be fixed before a scheduled visit and once the time is placed, it has to be that time, else you are considered unserious. It is because of this good time mentality many western countries and many business owners have been able to attain a point of development.
‘African time’ succeeds in degrading our integrity. If a respected man has an appointment scheduled by 3p.m, gets there by 3:10p.m without a good reason for his delay or without calling, emailing or sending a message to the person he has the appointment with, it will go a long way to prove that he is unserious and he lacks integrity. If he has a genuine reason he will call the person he has the appointment with to inform him, that way, he will be respected and taken seriously. Good time management goes a long way to boost and maintain your integrity and the level of respect accorded to you.
One main reason for stunted growth in African countries today is their nonchalant attitude towards time. Robert Updegraft said ‘To get all there is about living, we must stop and have a sip of life but never losing our senses of the enormous value of every minute’.
African time must be destroyed when there is strict punctuality syndrome in all aspect of life. It can be stopped by ‘YOU’ being noted for your punctuality and integrity. I went for a social gathering and I was surprised that everyone came before or on time or slightly after the event started and then the person beside me said ‘this man does not joke with time, he is a very punctual person too. His 9 o’clock is 9 o’clock’ and then I realized that your punctuality affects others too. At that gathering I learnt that if you have respect for your time and people’s time, they’ll reciprocate the respect. The problems of punctuality has become so bad that lateness is now the order of the day and it is now accepted in any function and people quickly seek shelter under ‘African time’.
We must all make efforts to correct this trend and social vice that is destroying our society. We must inculcate the virtue of punctuality. We must live by example so that our kids, friends and people close to us can watch us, take after us and completely stop the chain of ‘African time’.
Your punctuality can go a long way to affect the lives of others and provoke a change in their bad habits. We must re-brand ourselves towards respecting time and keeping appointments.