The “African Time” Cliché Has Got To Stop

A European friend visited Uganda recently. Quite the like-mind that networks much, she made a number of friends here. We shared a lot of experiences and ideas during her stay here.

One of the lessons my friend learned about Africa (the hard way) is our trademark lack of time management. More than often, she was made to wait for hours longer than the scheduled time for appointments with natives. The very few calls made to give her a “heads-up” that the other person would be coming late were either made AFTER the scheduled time or, at the very most, two minutes before.

Uganda is informally the youngest nation on the planet, with the world’s largest country population under 35. In these millennial times, the age bracket for startup entrepreneurs and CEO’s is 22-32. Ironically, the world’s youngest nation does not reflect these CEO statistics; it actually scores quite high in youth unemployment rates. Now, while the lack of starter capital and skills or education might inevitably suffice as factors, a harsh truth is that for a Facebook & Twitter generation that hates having their continent stereotyped, we are truly terrible with time management. The harsher truth is that it directly affects our employment status.

Time management is not only doing things at and in the right time; it’s also optimizing how much time you spend on what with who and where, rated by what value addition it makes to your life socially, professionally, spiritually and yes, financially. If you’re poor with your morning time management, you’ll make a terrible employee and startup CEO, because your morning time management almost entirely affects your time management the rest of the day. Pushing a morning deadline means all deadlines thereafter have to push forward. Any entrepreneur will tell you this has business-wrecking implications; you’ll never deliver, and thus clients churn.

Your average African millennial has brilliant startup ideas that go to waste because we’re too sleepy to execute them. We postpone too much. I’ve fallen out with colleagues over failing to honor appointments of our work with the excuse that “nobody is chasing us”. TIME is chasing us. We’re not getting any younger. We have dreams to accomplish, we have lives to change and futures to build. Accomplished entrepreneurs still work at fast-pace; why should you, a starter, think that taking your time is a thing? You think of it now, you start now. Mistakes and failures are lessons; don’t waste time in the name of planning to avoid them. Entrepreneurship is, by definition, risk taking.

The next time a friend says they’ll be there in “African Time”, call off the appointment. Keep tolerating delay by people who do not understand your vision and purpose, and you’re bound to fail at it. It’s amazing how backwards pushing one item on your agenda can set your vision on the long-term; it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn by experience. So, be woke. Master your time management, and those dreams shouldn’t be as far out of reach as they seem. Godspeed!

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