Despite international efforts to shield developing economies from the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa as a whole is experiencing an unprecedented economic shock. Governments are putting in place a couple of measures to remedy the situation and cannabis is taking center stage in the conversation. Legalization will have a positive knock-off effect on the dwindling economies and this is a propelling factor in most countries.
A report from Grand View Research has projected the value of the African cannabis market to surpass $70.6bn by 2028, this is with a CAGR of 26.7% from 2021 to 2028. The report suggested that South Africa has the highest economic potential in this regard, having a large consumer base. An earlier report that was published by New Frontier Data in 2019 indicated that the hemp and cannabis market contributed $37.3bn to the global market which is equivalent to 11% of the market’s overall value.
Africa has been late to join in the cannabis conversation. To date, only a handful of progressive state has legalized or at least decriminalized marijuana. This includes countries such as South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho. However, things have changed drastically in the last five years and increasingly more African nations are deliberating on the issue of marijuana legalization.
Malawi and Zimbabwe for example are countries that had for so many years relied heavily on tobacco exports. The anti-tobacco campaign has negatively impacted on these two economies and therefore a substitute foreign exchange earner should be a welcome idea.
Cannabis in Zambia
In 2019, a unanimous decision was made to legalize cannabis in Zambia for medical use and for export. In May 2021, the Cannabis Act and the Industrial Hemp Act were passed to allow for the therapeutic use and export of the herb. Unfortunately, things have not been rolling smoothly in the “air-conditioned state” as had been earlier anticipated.
Cultivation licenses are exorbitant, making the industry inaccessible to small-scale farmers. In the long run, only foreign-owned multinationals have access to the legal market. Speaking to CBD Intel. A Zambian economist, Daniel Tonga, has expressed concerns over the exorbitant license fees which are derailing the gains of legalization.
Cannabis in Malawi
Malawi decriminalized cannabis in February 2020, making it legal to cultivate and process marijuana for medicinal use and hemp for industrial use. However, cannabis cultivation fees in the country are through the roof and hence out of the reach of most small-scale farmers. Out of the 38 companies that have received cultivation licenses, only four have been able to commence operations.
Cannabis in Zimbabwe
Cannabis is legal in Zimbabwe for medicinal use, but not recreational use. Zimbabwe has an ambitious cannabis plan that it has not been able to execute. Out of the 57 companies that have been granted cultivation licenses, only about 20 are operational. According to the VP of the Cannabis Industries Association of Zimbabwe (CIAZ) Zorodzai Maroveke, this is because most of these companies are inactive. While the companies are registered in Zimbabwe, a majority lack local shareholding.
Cannabis in South Africa
South Africa decriminalized marijuana in 2018, making it legal for adults (above 21 years) to be in possession of, cultivate, and consume it in private residences. However, the Cannabis for Private Purpose Bill is yet to be signed into law.
Cannabis in Morocco
Not only has Morocco legalized cannabis for medicinal and industrial use, but it has also decriminalized the herb and made personal recreational consumption legal. This move has drawn a lot of criticism across the country.
Cannabis in Rwanda
Rwanda recently legalized cannabis for medicinal use. As much as cultivation is yet to begin, the government is hopeful that this will boost foreign exchange and create employment opportunities in the country.
Cannabis in Uganda
While cannabis (bhang) remains illegal in Uganda, marijuana cultivation apparently is not. An Israeli company working together with a Ugandan firm has been allowed to cultivate cannabis in Uganda, at a facility that is located outside Kasese town. Under strict supervision. The cannabis is grown for export and once it has been harvested it is escorted by anti-narcotics police to the airport and flown overseas where it is sold to pharmaceutical companies. The first batch was exported in April 2021. The directors of the companies are exploring markets in Germany and Australia.
Cannabis in Lesotho
Lesotho was the first African state to legalize cannabis cultivation. It is no surprise that three Canadian cannabis firms have invested a couple of million dollars in this market: Supreme Cannabis, Canopy Growth, and Aphria.
As much as these wins may not appear grand, they signify a change in attitudes and perceptions towards cannabis in the continent. Many African governments have been enticed by the economic prospects of legalization, especially at such dire times. Cannabis in Africa is definitely a space to watch in 2022 and beyond.