The growing trend towards legalizing cannabis is not limited to the USA. The world’s governments are slowly coming around to the fact that there is money to be made from cannabis, and many countries are legalizing farming of the plant. In Africa there is a growing trend towards legalizing the growth, harvesting and export of marijuana although few countries on the continent have passed laws legalizing its use for recreational purposes.
South Africa is one of few African countries where it legal to possess and grow cannabis, but not to sell it. Why is cannabis important to the African continent, and what is the future looking like for other African countries? Let’s have a look at the case of Malawi, where the future may well rely on growing cannabis.
Cannabis and Malawi
Malawi has largely been reliant on tobacco as a major part of the economy. This landlocked country sees 10% of its GDP coming from tobacco, and the plan makes up 60% of all exported goods. However, with worldwide usage of tobacco declining rapidly in the light of bans in many countries and the popularity of vaping Malawi has seen its income from tobacco drop by 50% from more than $400million to just $210million in the last decade. This is having serious repercussions on the economy of Malawi.
President Lazarus Chakwera has been urging tobacco farmers to switch to other crops, with cannabis to the fore. While it is illegal to use or possess the plant in Malawi – except for medicinal use – laws have been changed to encourage investment in cannabis farms and 35 licenses have been issued to growers.
Exporting Cannabis to Legal Markets
Malawi is not the only African state where you will find legal cannabis farms being set up. Other countries that have seen the potential in exporting marijuana include Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, South Africa, and Ghana. Each of these has been encouraging farmers to grow marijuana for export, and there are moves afoot to legalize use of the drug across these countries.
One other factor that has influenced the move towards cannabis farming is the covid-19 pandemic. Demand for cannabis and for vaping products went sky high during the last 18 months and there are no signs of a slow-down in the growth of these markets. What does the future look like for the African cannabis market?
What Does the Future Hold for the African Cannabis Market?
What happens next in Africa is directly linked to the future of the world cannabis market which looks bright. However, there is one problem facing the African growers that may block rapid growth. Traditionally, farmers in many parts of Africa have grown marijuana for there own use and for use in religious rituals, often with a blind eye turned by the law. These are small-time growers but would be the target for industry growth and likely candidates for licenses.
The problem lies in the strains of cannabis these farmers grow. In Africa it is likely that a farmer grows strains that are high in THC. This is a main psychoactive element of the plant, that which creates the ‘high’. The international market, however, is largely interested in those strains with lower THC and higher CBD content. CBD does not initiate a high but does provide all the other benefits of cannabis.
There is no doubt that the world cannabis market is set to take a giant leap in the foreseeable future, and it is hoped that the African countries can convince farmers of the lucrative nature of growing weed rather than tobacco.