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10 Ways To Curb The 'African Time' Syndrome When Planning An Event In Nigeria

Whether for you or for your guests, beginning your event late or arriving at an event late creates a bad impression and shows that you have no respect for people’s time. 

When your event is delayed, some important aspect of your event may be cancelled or done haphazardly and this can really impact your event negatively.

If you have planned, hosted or attended an event in Nigerian, you are familiar with the “African Time” Syndrome. The African time is a cultural perception of a laid back, flexible and careless attitude towards time. 

African time is a state of mind and a culture of impunity. Lateness in Nigerian event is a national epidemic. The African Time Syndrome is an African character of negligence to time.

African time is when an event is scheduled to start at a specific time, but did not start until much later or when someone says they will arrive at a certain time, but arrive much later. 

When it comes to events, the African time mentality speaks about a lifestyle of carelessness and lateness. Although the first clock was invented in Africa, keeping to time in Africa is harder than Chinese math.

There are countless high profile events held at swanky venues in Nigeria that didn’t commence until an hour after. 

There was one Nigerian event that started about 3 hours later. The guests waited and survived on a mixture of small gist and gossips.  

When you schedule your event for 3pm in Nigeria, you are most likely to start by 4pm. In fact, by 4:30pm will still see some guests walking majestically into the event venue.  

Yet, they get all the “all eyes on me” attention and may even be given a seat at the front row.

The maddening part of this African time culture is how guests come late to your event and still expect you welcome them with awe and reference. 

In fact, the measure of lateness is directly related to the perceived importance and social class of the so-called special guest.

There is nothing as annoying as receiving an invitation to an event, arrive the venue early and there is hardly anyone there, not even the host. 

When your event does not start early, your guests suffer for it and when your guests don’t arrive early, your event suffer for it.

When it comes to events in Nigeria, there is no strict attitude to time. Nigerians so relaxed, less leisured and less rigorous as regards to time. This lack of punctuality can ruin all your plans for your event. 

What is the point of preparing a programme of event and scheduling time for every agenda when you will have to skip important and interesting agenda or hurry everyone on stage because it is getting late already?

The concept of African time has become a major challenge in event planning. African time is not only ‘killing’ Africans, it is ruining events. 

It is not uncommon to see event vendors show up very late at your event. In one event, the MC did not show up until an hour after the scheduled time.

The host were already panicking. At another event, the makeup artist showed up at about the same time when the event was to begin. 

DJs, caterers and ushers are not left out of this. There was one event where the event decorator was still working when the guests arrived.

Most Nigerians feel awkward and uncomfortable when they arrive at an event venue early. There is also a perception that getting to an event too early would lead to a lost in valuable time that could have been used productively elsewhere.

There are some Nigerians who feel that if they arrive too early, they may appear to be too desperate. 

While this may be true is because there is a cultural norm of people never arriving on time and events are always starting late. Nigerians assume that everyone else will arrive late, so they show up late too.

One of the reasons why most Nigerians arrive at your event late is because there are so many irrelevant builds leading to the main event. 

There are so many Nigerian wedding and funerals where they waste so much time preaching, talking, introducing all the “Distinguished ladies and gentlemen” and taking so many offerings in-between.

This is why most Nigerians have developed a defence mechanism when attending events to miss all these irrelevant build ups. 

Most Nigerians don’t really want to be late: it is because they know that there will be a lot of time wasting involved.

While there may be some unforeseen circumstances that may arise or some factors beyond ones control such as bad roads, traffic jams and unreliable commercial buses which may contribute to significant lateness, this unpunctuality can sometimes be due to inefficiency and a “I don’t care” attitude. 

Many Nigerians do not plan their schedules well, while some deliberately leave home late.

In Nigeria, hosts and event planners usually scheduled event times much earlier in order to ensure people come around their desired time. 

That is, the real programme of event is scheduled to kick off by 6pm, however they take the African time culture into consideration and they deliberately write 5pm in the invitation card. Yes! This may work out but those who keep time and end up having to sit idle are at disadvantage.

Are these really enough justifications? Are these enough excuses for this gross cultural time indiscipline? How can you curb the “African Time” Syndrome when planning an event in Nigeria?

1. Reward punctual guests

Punctuality has become a myth in Nigeria because it is seldom rewarded. You can give free gifts to the first 100 guests.

2. Sign an agreement of punctuality with your vendors

If your agreement states that 20% of my price will be deducted as a punishment for my late coming, trust me, I will show up early.

3. Encourage key participants and guests to attend early

Most of the panicking is usually due to the absence or late arrivals of key participants in your events. These are the people you should encourage more.

4. Have a track record of punctuality

If your guests know that you have a track record of keeping to time, be rest assured that they will show up early.

5. Cut all irrelevant and time wasting programmes

Not all programmes are relevant and not all relevant programmes must be done. You must learn how to allocate time to the relevant agenda and cut all irrelevant programmes.

6. Stop assuming that everyone will come late

Some Nigerians have the counter-culture of punctuality. Don’t assume that all your guests are “African time” guests.

7. Set up and plan early

Ensure that you setup everything for your event very early to avoid rush hour approach.

8. Have a contingency plan

In every event, no matter how long or how much you plan, some things will not go as planned. This is why you must ensure that you have a PLAN B.

9. Have substitutes for every key guest

Don’t let any guest hold your event to ransom or make you feel as if they are indispensable. Have substitutes for every key guest.

10. Hire a professional event planner

Event planners are professional assistants. They know how to plan hitch-free events. They take notes of small details that may ruin your event if you plan your event yourself.

Read also 10 Benefits of Hiring An Event Planner Over A Committee of Friends and Families