Is Cannabis Africa’s New Cash Crop?

The African nations competing to lead the global cannabis supply chain.

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With global cannabis sales estimated to reach $55-billion in 2026, more & more African nations want in on the action.

North America might be leading the world when it comes to legalizing cannabis, however, several African nations are seeking to play catch up.

In recent years several African governments have implemented policies to legalize cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and processing such that they can capitalize on this new cash crop which is perfectly suited to their climate.

Global Demand For Cannabis

In March of this year, BDSA reported that global cannabis sales amounted to $21.3 billion USD in 2020 — a staggering 48% increase vs 2019.

BDSA also forecasts that global cannabis sales show no signs of slowing down, forecasting an annual growth rate of 17.7% — with global cannabis sales estimated to reach $55-billion USD in 2026. 

By comparison, global tobacco sales amounted to approximately $818 billion USD in 2019, with more than one billion consumers worldwide.

With numbers like these, many African nations are taking notice and are making moves to establish themselves as leaders of this new cash crop.

Who’s Doing What?

  • Lesotho (Population 2.125 million) → In 2018, Lesotho became the first African nation to issue licenses for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

  • South Africa (Population 58.56 million) → Cannabis was decriminalized in South Africa by the country's Constitutional Court in 2018 for personal consumption by adults in private.

  • Zimbabwe (Population 14.65 million) → They recently scrapped rules requiring sole state ownership for cannabis farming to encourage private investment in cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes.

  • Malawi (Population 18.63 million) → In February 2020, Malawi's parliament legalized the cultivation and processing of cannabis for industrial and medicinal uses.

  • Zambia (Population 17.86 million) → In December 2019, Zambia legalized cannabis for export and medicinal purposes only by unanimous decision.

Many of these nations are far from strangers in the world of producing and exporting regulated goods with 3 of the top producers of tobacco in the world 10 nations in the world located in Africa.

  • → Zimbabwe is the 5th largest producer of tobacco in the world.

  • → Zambia is the 6th largest producer of tobacco in the world.

  • → Tanzania is the 7th largest producer of tobacco in the world.

The Problems….

As was reported by Prohibition Partners — over 90% of the cannabis grown on the continent of Africa is sold for recreational purposes.

With medical cannabis currently accounting for less than 10% of all cannabis grown in Africa, it will take a huge transformation for any of the existing farmers to transition to cultivating this new cash crop.

In order for any of these nations to export cannabis to continents such as Europe for medical purposes, farmers will need to obtain Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification — something very few of the existing cannabis farmers in the region will have the finances to afford.

Additionally, many of the nations that currently permit cannabis to be consumed don’t need any more cannabis, regardless of how cheap any of these African nations could cultivate cannabis for.

Our Take

Unless these nations are willing to legalize cannabis for adult use purposes, thus creating demand for legal cannabis products within their borders — it seems extremely unlikely that any of the existing farmers in the region will benefit from the current regulations that are being implemented.

Long term, it seems very likely that Africa will produce a very large percentage of the world's cannabis, however, we have a long way to go before such a global cannabis supply chain can even exist.

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