Prime News Ghana

Ghana-man time: A cultural mindset in need of healing

By Primenewsghana
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A phenomenon I have observed in Ghana is that more often than not, Ghanaians arrive late to functions.

This habit of being late has affected me. I have found myself waiting at many events because the other guests have not arrived or are yet to arrive. At that moment, I told myself I could have spent my time doing something else instead of waiting.

I went for the launch of a new model of a car that was supposed to begin at 9:00 a.m. I arrived a few minutes before 9:00 a.m. At 9:00 a.m., only a few people and the organising team were present. The event eventually began at 10:30 a.m.

And the reason? The organisers were waiting for more people to arrive.

If this event had started at 9:00 a.m. as advertised, the late participants would have been punished for missing the event because the event lasted just an hour and 30 minutes. The event would have been over by 10:30 a.m. when the full set of guests arrived.

When events begin late because organisers wait for a large gathering, it is a reward for the latecomers. It sends a signal that they can be late for a programme and the organisers will wait for them, and that punctuality doesn’t matter. This is unfair to the punctual guests who have to wait. It seems to me that being punctual then becomes a punishment.

Someone I spoke to about this issue said: “It’s not a Ghanaian problem, it’s an individual one” explaining that most of the events or programmes he attended began on time and people were mostly punctual.

I believe it is an individual problem because one would have to make a conscious effort to be on time. However, I consider it an individual problem that has gradually become a cultural one.

Thriving culture

It appears, however, that some Ghanaians have accepted that when a programme is scheduled at 10:00 a.m., it will most likely not begin on time and that if you are punctual, others will be late because that has become the norm. 

Common thoughts that result from this situation are: “Nobody wants to be the fool that waits”, “Why don’t I be late? When I go, everybody will be there, everything will be in motion so I can just join in”.

Another person said: “ Let’s say there’s a party at 1 p.m., people will come at 4 p.m., three hours late.  From 3:30 to 4 p.m. that’s when the party gets exciting!”.
Another said: “Lateness is caused by something you do not consider a priority such as a birthday, outdooring, funeral, or wedding because you know that you won’t be punished if you’re late to one of these events. We place more value on certain things because we are afraid of the consequences. For example, a Ghanaian would never be late for an appointment at the American Embassy for a visa, flight or a job interview.” 


How do we cure lateness at events then?

I will suggest that event organisers should be time-conscious by ensuring that everything is ready for the arrival of their guests. Otherwise, it sends a sign of disrespect to guests who spend money to patronise such events. An example of this is some of the “Detty December” festivals that began later than announced.

I believe being on time is being intentional about the person you are meeting or the event you are attending. It creates an impression about your persona and how much you value time. Time itself is valuable, a minute or an hour wasted cannot be clawed back easily because time gone is time wasted. 


A major reason given to justify lateness in Ghana is traffic. “When anyone gives that excuse, it’s accepted because we know everyone experiences traffic,” said a graphic designer.

I believe one can be excused for being late as a result of the traffic situation. However, when lateness becomes repetitive, it can no longer be tolerated. 

Once you know that you live in a busy neighbourhood and experience traffic regularly, you should be well aware of your surroundings and how to get by.
I also believe that if some Ghanaians keep thinking this way, they will remain late for programmes. Someone agrees with me by saying “You don’t have to allow the cultural “time unconsciousness” to influence you and your time; you have to work on your mindset”.

Henceforth, you can plan the time you expect to spend in traffic to anticipate any delays. By doing this, instead of being an hour late because of traffic, you will arrive on time, and in the worst-case scenario, you'll arrive five to 10 minutes late, which is better than being an hour late.
In other cultures, being late is disrespectful and sends a signal that you are not to be taken seriously and that you are a very disorganised person. Being late has cost businesses contracts and opportunities which could have ordinarily been won.

For most Ghanaians, it has become normal to be late because there are no punitive actions, according to a senior management member of the Graphic Communications Group Ltd. 

One of the solutions corporate organisations have taken to prevent people from being late is to excuse them from their meetings because of the disruption caused by their lateness.

He said a former President, J. E. A. Mills, was constantly punctual at events to the point where ministers toed the line because failure to attend meetings on time where the former President was in attendance would mean being denied access to the meeting place.


In conclusion, being late has become part of the Ghanaian mindset and lifestyle even though certain individuals and organisations take time consciously. A change in time-consciousness mindset will ensure some Ghanaians' punctuality irrespective of where they find themselves. 

This has the potential to avoid waste of time and increase productivity. Time, they say, is money.  If this principle is understood, no Ghanaian would ever want to waste money; especially in these economic challenges. So, there must be a cultural change from time-wasting to time-consciousness.


By Audrey Occansey Agbeko