Ruto’s ‘mambo ni matatu’ remark turns Kenyans into memelords and entrepreneurs
President William Ruto’s recent speech at the Africa Climate Summit, held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, has ignited a viral frenzy in Kenya, with the catchphrase “mambo ni matatu” taking center stage online and even on merchandise like T-shirts.
President Ruto called for decisive global action and restructuring the international financial framework in his compelling address.
He drew attention to the issue of exorbitant interest rates on development financing, a major obstacle to progress and sustainable growth for African nations.
“When I was first elected a member of Parliament in a rural constituency in Kenya, I represented a community that is so proud that they think that it is not a good thing they are risk-averse and very debt-averse.
He shared a local proverb in his indigenous language, “Kaikai kobarin panan kosir kobarin pesen,” which translates to “Better to be killed by poverty than be killed by debt.”
President Ruto highlighted three essential elements in accessing financing for African countries: speed, scale, and affordability.
He spoke of the challenges in obtaining significant resources, the need for specialized skills, and the importance of affordability in ensuring equitable development.
“As they say in Kenya, mambo ni matatu,” President Ruto said.
“Number one, speed. It takes inordinate (time) to access any meaningful resources. Number two, it requires skill because we’ve all agreed that enormous resources are required and number three, affordability so that we both pay the same.”
The President’s rallying cry for a redesigned global financial architecture resonated with Kenyans, but it was his reference to the viral phrase “mambo ni matatu” that truly caught the nation’s attention.
The phrase first gained prominence when President Ruto issued a stern warning to sugar sector “cartels” last week.
He declared that these individuals faced three possible outcomes: fleeing the country, imprisonment, or even death, which he colloquially referred to as “mambo ni matatu” (It boils down to three things).
President Ruto’s reference to this viral phrase was met with a wave of online reactions, including the creation of hilarious memes.
Some enterprising Kenyans even seized the moment to capitalize on the phrase’s popularity by printing it on T-shirts.
One proprietor based in the United States has already begun selling “Mambo ni matatu” t-shirts for $22 (Ksh 3210), showcasing the quick adaptability of Kenyans to turn viral moments into marketable merchandise.
The phrase has not only become a humorous online trend but has also tapped into the Kenyan spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship, where even a catchy phrase can become an opportunity for individuals to express themselves and potentially turn a profit.