Africa’s legal cannabis industry could be worth more than $7.1 billion annually by 2023 if legislation is introduced in some of the continent’s major markets, according to research from The African Cannabis Report, the first detailed report on the legal cannabis industry in Africa.
While African cannabis industries have great potential, cannabis remains illegal throughout Africa except for in Lesotho, a small landlocked Southern African country with a population of around 2.2 million people.
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With the economic prospects of cannabis legalization becoming clearer, some African countries want to tap into a lucrative industry that has the potential to create jobs and boost economic growth.
“With affordable land, low-cost labor and an experienced agricultural workforce, Africa offers enormous opportunity to local startups and foreign companies looking to expand,” according to the Africa Cannabis Report.
Here are 10 African countries considering legalizing cannabis for its economic prospects.
In 2017, Lesotho became the first country in Africa to offer legal licenses to grow cannabis. Verve Dynamics Inc. was granted the first license from the Lesotho Ministry of Health for the cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, according to the company. A legal cannabis industry could be worth around $90 million for the Lesotho economy by 2023, according to a research report.
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South Africa is on its way to legalizing cannabis. A legalized cannabis industry in South Africa could be worth more than $1.7 billion annually by 2023, according to the African Cannabis Report. In September 2018 the South African constitutional court ruled that the recreational use of cannabis was no longer a criminal offense. The court gave the government two years from the date of the ruling to bring the country’s cannabis laws in line with the constitution. The South African government is working towards regulating the cannabis industry to legalize its use and benefit from the job creation, especially in rural areas, according to CityPress.
In 2018, Zimbabwe legalized growing marijuana for medicinal and research purposes. Zimbabweans can apply for a renewable license to cultivate cannabis, with companies and individuals allowed to produce cannabis for five years with a license. Possession, growing or using cannabis in Zimbabwe was illegal before and could result in sentences of up to 12 years in jail, according to CNN.
Nigeria’s market could be worth $3.7 billion by 2023 if cannabis use is legalized in Africa’s most populous country due to favorable growing conditions and the size of its population. Politicians are realizing the potential economic benefit that the cannabis industry could have. Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu recently called on the Nigerian government to encourage the cultivation of medicinal cannabis in the country. The conversation around legalization has begun but is a hard sell with groups such as non-governmental organization Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry, according to TheGuardian.
In August, the European Union approved Uganda’s medical cannabis products, giving local cannabis farmers access to the global legal marijuana market, according to TheCitizen. Recreational cannabis use in the East African country remains unlawful, but the country is willing to export the plant for its economic benefit. The government is in the process of amending laws that prohibit the production of medicinal cannabis.
In Morocco, where cannabis is illegal but tolerated for personal use, the cannabis industry employs 800,000 people, according to BusinessLive. The conversation surrounding legalization has been ongoing since 2014 when an opposition party in the Moroccan parliament proposed a bill to legalize marijuana production for medical and industrial use. That bill failed, and the movement has been slow ever since but cannabis use is widely tolerated. The economic benefit may be a catalyst for the legalization conversation to resurface. Morocco’s marijuana industry is expected to be worth $900 million by 2023.
While Ghanaians are heavy consumers of cannabis, the plant remains prohibited, even if it is widely tolerated. A campaign to legalize cannabis in the country is building momentum thanks to the support of the former head of the Ugandan Narcotics Control Board. State-led cultivation and export of marijuana has being proposed but faces opposition from government officials and mental health experts in the country, according to Myjoyonline.
Although cannabis is illegal in Malawi, it is one of the country’s biggest unofficial exports. Malawi Gold is a world-renowned strain of cannabis grown exclusively there. Malawi is considering legalizing medical marijuana and hemp products to benefit the economy, especially as tobacco prices have fallen due to anti-tobacco campaigns, according to VOA. Tobacco accounts for 13 percent of Malawi’s GDP.
At the end of 2018, a draft marijuana control bill was introduced to Kenya’s parliament and the legalization debate was ignited. The proposed bill was tabled by a member of parliament Kenneth Okoth. Okoth and his allies who support the legalization of cannabis argue that its controlled medicinal and commercial benefit outweighs the need for its ban, according to EnactAfrica.
eSwatini’s (formerly Swaziland) government is exploring the possibility of legalizing cannabis to boost the economy. Lawmakers in the small landlocked kingdom believe that the plant may be worth around $1.63 billion per year if legalized, according to AllAfrica. While the process continues, police make many arrests for the cultivation of cannabis and legalization may still take some effort and time.