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Cannabis is one of the most-watched markets in one of the world’s fastest-growing and youngest populations—Africa.
Zimbabwe recently took a step ahead of most countries on the continent, legalizing the use of hemp-based products for medicinal use.
The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe has invited cannabis growers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, and retail pharmacists to apply for licenses.
The government in the country of almost 15 million expects cannabis sales to generate $1.25 billion a year. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube told Bloomberg that cannabis has “immense potential” to generate export profits and tax revenue. Zimbabwe wants to shift to cannabis as it moves away from tobacco.
The emerging African market
Asia gets most of the attention as a growing force in global politics and economics. Still, many experts believe Africa will also rise in power in the coming century. Foreign Policy refers to China and India holding a great position of power as “less a revolution than a restoration,” given that both countries had some of the most sophisticated civilizations in history over the past 2,000 years.
Africa, never a major player in world politics, is where the real revolution is happening. The continent has a population of more than 1.4 billion, a tenfold increase over the past century. Experts project the continent’s population will reach at least 2.2 billion by 2050, accounting for about 25 percent of the world’s population.
Legalization of cannabis in Africa
Despite the young population, cannabis legalization has not spread quickly across the 54 countries in Africa. South Africa has legalized growing cannabis plants for personal use but has not set up a legal, government-regulated market.
In addition to Zimbabwe, nine other countries have legalized cannabis for medical or scientific use. They include Lesotho, South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, Eswatini, Rwanda, and Morocco. However, the vast majority of countries in Africa make cannabis possession and use illegal.
However, change is happening in Africa, and cannabis entrepreneurs do well to keep a close eye on the situation. Quartz Africa reports that an increasing number of government officials in multiple countries are leaving behind the “colonial era and morality laws” that once surrounded cannabis use across the continent. In the past, those who possessed or cultivated cannabis had to choose between going underground with their operation or facing jail time. That is no longer the case in many areas.
Business leaders also are pushing for the growing continent to enter the global market. Sudhir Ruparelia, considered Uganda’s richest businessman, wrote a letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni arguing that legalizing medical marijuana could transform the country.
He wrote that it is a “market reality that the global medical marijuana market, estimated to reach between $40 billion and $45 billion by 2025, is not unlimited. The early birds will certainly catch the most and possibly the biggest worms and…will hold onto this advantage for many years to come.”