African time

African time

"Africa time" or African time is a colloquial term used to describe a perceived cultural tendency, in some parts of Africa, toward a more relaxed attitude to time. This is sometimes used in a negative sense, about tardiness in appointments, meetings and events. The term is also sometimes used to describe the more leisurely, relaxed and less rigorously scheduled lifestyle found in these countries, especially as opposed to the more hectic, clock-bound pace of daily life in Western countries.

The concept has become a key 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.

In October 2007, an Ivorian campaign against African time, backed by President Laurent Gbagbo, received international media attention when an event called "Punctuality Night" was held in Abidjan to recognize business people and government workers for regularly being on time. The slogan of the campaign is "'African time' is killing Africa - let's fight it." Reuters reported that "organizers hope to heighten awareness of how missed appointments, meetings or even late buses cut productivity in a region where languid tardiness is the norm." It was remarked that this year's winner, legal adviser Narcisse Aka--who received a $60,000 villa in recognition of his punctuality--"is so unusually good at being punctual that his colleagues call him 'Mr White Man's Time'.

Popular culture

The concept of Africa Time is demonstrated in the award-winning short film Binta and the Great Idea. The protagonist of the film, a fisherman in a small village in Senagal, can't understand the new ideas brought back from Europe by his friend, these are symbolized by a Swiss wristwatch that alarms at various times to the delight of the friend, but for no apparent reason. The fisherman is shown making his way through the various ranks of officials with his idea, which in the end is a sharp criticism of Western culture's obsession with efficiency and progress.


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