“With the economic opportunities and the agricultural opportunities, hemp is really a revolutionary crop in terms of its diversity of uses. I think it behooves African governments to not only get on board but to become leaders in this space.”
While the majority of Africa is yet to warm up the economic and therapeutic potential of the plant, a few countries have taken the deep dive and are already beginning to reap benefits. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently unveiled a plan to fast track regulations for the cannabis industry and industrialize the production of Cannabis in the country. Other African countries such as Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Malawi are also gearing up to harness the economic potential of Cannabis sativa.
Jack Grover is a cannabis entrepreneur who’s looking at the African cannabis market with eyes of a tiger. In this interview, he gives a detailed bird’s eye view of the opportunities and pitfalls in the African cannabis market and gives good reasons why the time is ripe for Africa as a continent to embrace and exploit cannabis.
Africa seems to be lagging far behind in cannabis legalization, both medical and recreational. Do you see things changing in the near future?
The legacy effects of colonialism have adversely affected the African continent, African society, and African economic development. It was long before cannabis became a thing, although, cannabis is shedding more light on this particular issue. I think there’s some exciting stuff happening though in African cannabis between hemp farming, what’s going on in South Africa, and the potential for legislative reform in Kenya. East Africa is particularly exciting.
For me, it’s because the climate is so perfect for cannabis. I would say the reason that Kenya is one of the world’s major suppliers of fresh-cut flowers and dominates that for Europe is because of the high-level agricultural expertise that exists in Kenya and Kenya has some wonderful agricultural institutions and universities.
And of course, there are other great places like that, but the unique soil and climate, and economy in Kenya make me very excited. And I think the high altitude and perfect climate around and outside of Nairobi where you see a lot of tea farms, I think those could really transition over to cannabis. When people talk about producing cannabinoids on a global scale as an input commodity, I really think you have to consider what will happen with African cannabis.
And I think because it’s such a valuable crop, it’s exciting from the economic development standpoint, what it can do for Africa and not mention, in terms of restoring and stabilizing the environment as the world goes through climate change, hemp is very exciting as well, both from a standpoint of natural preservation and economic development.
Why are most African nations reluctant to join in the cannabis conversation?
I think this is a more conservative place in some ways with deep traditions and long-held beliefs and misconceptions about cannabis. And I think a lot of Western propaganda about cannabis has seeped into these countries and there’s a strong Western influence and a lot of these governments, a lot of these people were… A lot of these leaders were educated in the US and the west in places where cannabis was prohibited. I think it’ll take a little bit of time for that attitude to change just as it did here in the United States.
Country-specific conversations on cannabis. Which countries have opened up to having positive conversations on ending the cannabis prohibition era? Which are the countries to have on the radar in 2022, as far as cannabis legalization goes?
I am excited about what’s going on in South Africa. I’m excited about what’s being talked about in places like Uganda as well. We’ve got a good market presence in South Africa. That’s really exciting.
South Africa is a leading economy in the African continent so hopefully, it will lead to and inspire a lot more development, in particular, in some of these agricultural economies that are really ripe for cannabis.
A handful of African nations have legalized the cultivation of cannabis for export and medical use. What have been some of the major setbacks and what kind of solutions are needed to remedy the situation?
Supply chain issues have certainly been difficult. Quality issues are difficult. Cannabis is a very difficult crop to grow. It’s very intensive and requires proper treatment throughout its lifecycle. I think what we’re seeing in these fledgling African markets is it’s really a learning curve and a developmental curve like we’re seeing or as we saw develop in the North American cannabis market. Really it comes down to the question, in some ways, of how well capitalized are they for how many… And how many mistakes can they make?
Are we expecting any milestone changes in the African cannabis industry in 2022?
Yeah, I think globally there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on in cannabis. I think we’re going to see more and more countries come online. I think you’re going to see more and more pieces of cannabis legislation be introduced. I think you’re going to see more cannabis legislation in Europe, but I think the most exciting market development is really seeing the continued development of the market in Thailand, and is that going to expand to other, traditionally, very conservative Asian countries?
But the progression of legalization in Africa and Asia where so much of the world’s population is and so much world population throughout those, is certainly an exciting thing to watch as we hope for a global, plant-based revolution and a broader revolution in human consciousness. That’s certainly something to keep your eye on.
Is it too soon to start investing in the cannabis market in Africa?
I would say is it ever too early to do something? Yeah. Timing is important. It depends on what you’re doing and how long you’re willing to commit. I’ve been interested in getting into cannabis and going to Kenya and meeting people over there and advocating for cannabis for a few years. And I think we’re still a few years away from any opportunities from that. But in terms of an industry, we only exist as an industry because so many people have done that before us.
Yeah, I’d say it’s absolutely worth it. Maybe not… Don’t risk the farm, so to speak. But I would say that lobbying and that investment, trying to get businesses or ancillary businesses off the ground and support the industry and start to create some infrastructure for an industry to come for the medical industry, yeah. I think that’s absolutely critical to the development of the market.
Looking at the trajectory that was observed in the U.S, once the first state legalized cannabis for medical use a domino effect took over until we got to 39 and counting. Is the same effect likely to be observed in Africa?
I got a great quote for you for this one.
“Capitalism is by nature a form or method of economic change and not only never is but never can be stationary.” Just like ideas are and just like Capitalism is a force of change and ever-expanding; I think cannabis is. I think the desire to develop these countries from this… these governments’ desire to develop their country and continue to encourage its growth and development, both from a societal and economic standpoint, I think, yes. It’ll follow the same path.
Why should Africa legalize hemp and cannabis?
Africa should legalize hemp and cannabis, first off, for the quality of life of its citizens. It’s already proven to be such a beneficial medicine. With more time and more study, I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more. With the economic opportunities and the agricultural opportunities, hemp is really a revolutionary crop in terms of its diversity of uses. I think it behooves African governments to not only get on board but to become leaders in this space.
It was a great pleasure to have this one-on-one with Jack, Founder of Grove Bags. Readers who wish to learn more about cannabis packaging are welcome to visit the Grovebags website.