Africa’s Growing Marijuana Market

According to reports by the United Nations, marijuana is recorded to be the most widely used drug around the world, with an estimated 188 million consumers in 2017. These figures show a valuable rising market as countries across the world legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Interestingly, one third of marijuana users globally are in Africa, a study done by the New Frontier Data finds.

Marijuana is becoming a booming billion-dollar industry on the continent.

Cultivators and producers cite marijuana’s medical benefits which include pain and inflammation relief, and possibly even soothing mental illnesses. But generally, Africa’s marijuana market has been so far insignificant due to several factors hindering the industry such as Africa’s poor economic situation and the plant’s illegal status across the continent. 

Africa has the potential to become an enormous marijuana market due to the huge population size and favourable weather which makes growing marijuana better than other parts of the world. Even though it is projected that the continent already produces around 38,000 tons of cannabis each year, most African countries do not recognize marijuana as a legal crop to cultivate. Furthermore, no African country is so far considering fully endorsing recreational marijuana use, despite a few exceptions in which marijuana for medicinal and research purposes has been legalized. A new report by Prohibition Partners suggests that by 2023, the African cannabis market could reach $7.1 billion. Some of the  reasons for such enormous  market potential can be attributed to the already prominent usage rates of marijuana in a significant number of African countries. In addition, there are five African countries in the list of the world’s top thirty countries for cannabis use prevalence among adults. 

Legalizing the cultivation of marijuana could bring about  huge market and export opportunities. States would see revenue from taxes, which would in turn aid in the development of the region. This would create more employment opportunities and boost the agricultural sector. But while such actions are taken it is equally essential that government and law enforcement agencies put in the right regulations to manage the consumption of the product. This is to ensure that the product is not abused and misused by unauthorized persons.

In order to fully reap the benefits of the cultivation of marijuana, governments must be prepared to shape the marijuana industry into what they want for the future. Governments can look into legalizing the cultivation and exportation of marijuana for medical purposes. Morocco, one of the world’s largest producers of cannabis resin, holds the largest documented cannabis cultivation area. The marijuana produced is exported to other places around the world, serving as a foreign exchange earner for the country. An estimated 70% of the marijuana entering South Africa is grown in the neighboring country of Lesotho, where it is projected to be the country’s third largest source of income. In addition, Lesotho has attracted the attention of foreign investors interested in cultivating marijuana for export. 

Given that many countries around the world are legalising marijuana for (at least) medicinal purposes, it is clear that no continent is untouched by pro-marijuana legislation. Africa is no exemption, as earlier strict government regulation gives way to the prospect of using marijuana to foster economic growth through exports and foreign exchange earnings.

Thumbnail image: Katheirine Hitt