African time can roughly be defined as the habit of deliberately arriving minutes (sometimes hours) late to a meeting/occasion. According to Wikipedia, “African time is the perceived cultural tendency, in most parts of Africa, toward a more relaxed attitude to time. This is sometimes used in a pejorative sense, about tardiness in appointments, meetings and events.”
In Africa, when planing an event, you should endeavor to factor in African time. So for example, if you intend for your event to commence by 12pm, factoring African time means you schedule it to start 11am, so by the time people come late, it starts at your desired 12pm.
African Time continues to give Africans a bad name. It lingers around like an awful smell that will just not go away. Everywhere you go you see examples of tardiness that can be linked back to the myth of African Time. I have lost count of the number of otherwise classy events held at swanky venues I have attended that still started an hour late. Nothing is safe from African Time. I have been to weddings that started up to three hours later than the advertised time. And the guests waited and survived on a mixture of small talk and gossip. Time is taken for granted in this region. It is seen as a renewable resource. Yet Africa misappropriates time as it does to other resources, such as minerals. With this tradition, everything in the continent is always running behind schedule.
The concept of African time has become a key topic of self-criticism in modern Africa. According to one Ghanaian writer, “One of the main reasons for the continuing underdevelopment of our country is our nonchalant attitude to time and the need for punctuality in all aspects of life. The problem of punctuality has become so endemic that lateness to any function is accepted and explained off as ‘African time’.”
No society can hope to be competitive or catch up if it disrespects time. Unfortunately – and this is the bad news – the concept of African Time continues to provide a convenient excuse for the tardiness of those who are lazy or just plain rude. Of course, those who invoke African Time are not stupid, they know that by saying that it is part of African culture to disregard punctuality, very few will have the nerve to challenge them. What gets to me are the many senior officials in both politics and business that seem to delight in arriving late, as if this confirmed their status.
According to Ghana’s Kofi Nyandeh “The problem in Africa is that people are not paid by the hour and therefore they have no respect for time.” For Africa to develop, our ideology on time has to change. This culture has been criticized for affecting the continent’s development and productivity. But this thinking keeps Africa as one of the world’s poorest regions. Increasing foreign investments and international trade mean that Africans must realize promptness does not only define their future but also shows integrity. Time is one of the most precious gifts given to man and definitely the only one given to all men in equal share of 24 hours each in a day.
African Time on Wikipedia
What is this thing called African Time? by Victor Dlamini on Daily Maverick
Time for Africa to abandon tardy culture to avoid punctuality problems on Globaltimes