Africans are generally considered to be poor time keepers. The phrase ‘African Time’ was coined to mean at least an hour after the agreed time. In the USA they say: ‘we met at 10.00am CPT’ that stands for ‘colored people’s time’ that is not later than 10.15am 🙂
But why don’t most Africans keep time? And is this the cause of poverty in most African states?
Let me try to explain it from a Kenyan/African point of view and after living in Austria for almost 5 years I have also come to change some of my perception of time management.
First and foremost it is a cultural thing. Africans are very social people there is always time for everything, you could visit an African house at 7.00 in the evening and you will still be welcomed and they will share with you whatever is available to eat or drink. They will stop on their way to work or school to help a neighbor catch a run away chicken or push a strangers car that got stuck in the mud. For many time is a period and not a point. That is why jobs are not paid per hour but per day or per month or per job. African time is not confined to the tick-tock of a watch. Africans have been telling time by moments like sunset, sunrise, cock-crow, length of shadow etc. ‘Better late than never.’ is a common saying among Africans. For Africans, “Time is Money” is an expression that doesn’t make sense. Time has no relation to money, time is in relation to relations, how they interact with each other.
In many African cultures it is considered rude and a bad habit to be punctual. For example if you arrive early or in time for a wedding feast you might be considered greedy you came to eat or in a burial also greedy and maybe you had something to do with the death of the deceased. Elders and people of authority are never expected to arrive on time. If they came early they would be lowering their dignity because people want to welcome them to the event.
Another factor could be the short life expectancy. The average life expectancy in Africa is 52 while the global average is 66. Life is short in Africa so Africans savor every moment. They engage in activities that are exciting, thrilling. They would immediately stop what they are doing to satisfy their curiosity or help someone in need or to have a good chat with a stranger over a topic that has just popped up. That is why despite the poverty Africans are generally happy people.
Here are some interesting quotes about Africans and time:
-Africans never wait for time, Time waits for Africans.
-Africans exist in time not for time.
-When God made man, he gave the white man a watch and the black man Time.
So is it a curse that Africans are not good at keeping time?
What is your experience with African Time?
PS. To be fair and not generalize I have to say that of course there are many Africans who are punctual 🙂