They call it here African time! As I do not know well any other African country, I have to call it Rwandan Time to be fair to other African countries. It is nasty and it is boring! This is when you have a set appointment at 8 a.m. and by 2 p.m. you are still waiting!
This is when there is a committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. and by 7:30 p.m. you are still waiting for most members on your committee! There are many variations but overall Rwandan Time wastes your time, does not apologize and feels like a God-given right for the many practitioners of Rwandan Time!
Is Rwandan Time a good thing to keep?
Well, yes and no! If you are on vacation and have nothing to do, Rwandan Time is wonderful! You take the time to greet your friends and relatives; you spend much time inquiring about your friends’ health, good or bad fortune; you exchange stories and gossips; you get to know really well your neighbors and their children.
You arrive late for lunch and dinner: who cares, it is your wife, your relatives, your friends, your house and your life! This is a stress-free life on vacation and that is really what vacation is about.
If you are doing work-related activities, the Rwandan Time is a major impediment to faster development and should be banned from the Rwandan workplace.
Rwandan Time practised by a service provider
Rwandan Time practitioners, who are service providers typically show up late, engage in private conversations with their domestic workers and their relatives, check on the progress of their house repairs or construction or pretend being in lengthy meetings on the phone. They have no regard whatsoever for the long Rwandan Queue forming in front of them.
If you are a service provider and you enjoy practising Rwandan Time, consider the following and, please, stop this dangerous behaviour: if you are in contact with foreign investors, they will not wait and may go to another country with better Time discipline; if you serve business people, you waste their time and for them time is money, that money wasted could have been taxed by the Government, as a result there is less money available to pay you and you may end up not having a job and it is all your fault; if you serve Government employees, think about other citizens waiting to be served at these civil servants’ offices; if you serve employees of private organisations, this is even worse as you are contributing to the bankruptcy of the private sector as they use their people’s time to make money.
If you are a service provider, show up on time, do not engage in phone conversations over private matters – this is what “pause” time is about – make sure you control the Rwandan Queue (see a previous article), be respectful of the customer/citizen and do not give priority to your friends and relatives!
Rwandan Time practised by a member of a committee
Frequently members of a committee arrive late by half an hour or a full hour. Some time they do not even show up and deprive the committee of a proper quorum.
This may very well explain why there are so many meetings that end with no resolution. In turn this would explain why there is such a huge inflation of meetings.
Many decisions are taken in committees as Rwandans prefer group decisions to decisions made by individuals. This is both good and bad! It is good as it gives an opportunity to many people (the committee) to give feedback on the issue being considered.
It is badly used unfortunately as it gives cover to decision makers who can’t make decisions; in Rwanda, many middle managers are incompetent decision makers and use committees and group meetings to make decisions. It seems that work in Rwanda is mostly about meetings that generate other meetings!
If you are a member of a committee, please, show up on time or send a replacement or send a note to excuse yourself. If you are a decision maker and you have a committee helping you, listen carefully to their recommendations and make your decision; accept responsibility for the decision even when you used the committee recommendations verbatim.
Is Rwandan Time cultural?
It seems so and this is why we need to make a special effort to control the use of Rwandan Time. We are moving fast from an agrarian society characterized by slow timed events to the fast pace of a knowledge-based society.
If we are to develop faster, we need to speed up Rwandan Time and update accordingly our culture and its expectations.
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