Ivory Coast Awards Punctuality Prize

London Daily Telegraph, October 9, 2007

A competition to reward punctuality in a region notorious for lateness has been won by a legal adviser known as “Mr. White Man’s Time.”

Narcisse Aka, 40, was picked as the most consistently punctual person in Ivory Coast, a country with the chronic “sociological problem” of missed appointments and delays.

Appointment times are regarded as purely advisory in many of the humid coastal regions of West Africa.

This is damaging productivity, said the organizers of the contest, backed by President Laurent Gbagbo and with the slogan: “African time is killing Africa, let’s fight it.”

“I was not surprised to be nominated because I’m always harassing my colleagues to be punctual,” Mr. Aka said. “They call me Mr. White Man’s Time. But for me, it is purely a mark of respect to other people to be punctual. Time is money and we know that it must be costing us if we are late.”

Mr. Aka, who is married with three children, walked away from Saturday night’s competition with the top prize of a $60,000 villa. Eight other contestants won cash awards.

“It seems strange to me that there is all this attention, because I do not have the feeling that I have done something so extraordinary,” he added.

Competition judges short-listed 30 persons, who had been nominated by friends and colleagues, and carried out spot-checks.

Jean Baptiste Koffi, the director of the public relations firm that organized the contest, said there was a sociological problem of lateness, not just in Ivory Coast but in the whole region, that cost the economy heavily in missed appointments and delayed meetings.

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