Before The Weekend #15 — Do we need a little more hakuna matata — 25 February 2022

I’m spending some time in Zanzibar and one thing I’ve noticed, is just how often you hear the phrase “hakuna matata”. As these things often do, it made me think about how differently we approach things in the West, compared to the hakuna matata life here in Zanzibar.

What is hakuna matata?

Hakuna matata is a Swahili phrase, made famous by the Lion King movie, that prominently featured the hakuna matata song. It means don’t worry, there are no problems, everything will be ok. And people tend to say it all the time. When something isn’t available or it will take a little more time to do something. Sometimes even just as a greeting.

Poor Africans?

The difference between our Westerns rat race and the life here is staggering. I see people living in a very different rhythm here. They’re closer to nature, in tune with the sunrise and sunset, connected to the ocean.

And I can already hear you thinking: “well yes, but Africa is a very poor continent”. But I ask you, which poverty? Economic poverty or human poverty? Poverty of the means or poverty of the soul? I’d argue that the poverty of meaning, of purpose in our own Western life, is exactly what is pushing us to live that rat race life, the complete opposite of hakuna matata. It’s pushing us into mental illness, depression, burn-out, bore-out and disconnection from what we do.

Could we use a little more hakuna matata?

So what would happen if we invited some more hakuna matata into our lives? If we got into the habit of putting things more into perspective? Perhaps in the context of a noble purpose, so we can reflect on what is really important in our lives.

Where hakuna matata in this part of the world is a way of life, embedded in the culture, for us in the West, it could become a choice. It could be an active decision to live with some perspective, to step back and consider what’s actually relevant to our lives and the people we care for.

I’m not saying we should all become Africans. I’m not saying there’s no room for improvement in the way the African world and economy functions today. But I do think there are interesting lessons we can learn from each other. So the philosophy of hakuna matata, to me, seems something worth exploring.