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Game Theory on ‘African Time’

Anyone who's ever been to Africa knows the phrase 'African time.' It is sometimes a pejorative uttered by foreigners; sometimes it's simply an African's way of getting a Westerner to recognize there is nothing sacrosanct about their schedule. Operating on African time means being flexible, and often late.

Anyone who’s ever been to Africa knows the phrase ‘African time.’ It is sometimes a pejorative uttered by foreigners; sometimes it’s simply an African’s way of getting Westerners to accept there is nothing sacrosanct about their schedules. Operating on African time means being flexible, and often late.

Here’s an interesting rumination from the Nigerian economics blog Niajanomics in which the analytical approach known as game theory explores why Africans operate on African time even if they don’t really have to. It has to do with uncertainty.

An excerpt (below is just a graphic w/ the story at Niajanomics) from the Nigerian author: “Now let’s apply (game theory) to our habit of lateness. We’ll start by using two Africans – Tunde and Ada – who have arranged to meet up. They want to spend as much time as possible at this meeting. Neither Tunde nor Ada is certain that the other party will arrive early. This modified venn diagram illustrates the outcome based on their individual decision…”

African Time
Naijanomics
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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.