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The paper claims that what Westerners interacting with Africans tend to perceive as a "false promise" is in fact a politeness strategy. Some examples of such polite promises are discussed according to classical speechact theory, as well as according to their interactional and conversational context. It is suggested that they are used to politely close a conversational exchange. The question of how a binding promise is made in an African cultural context is addressed by looking at lexical expressions for the speech act of promising from various African languages.