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Lesotho is pioneering Africa’s medical cannabis industry4 minutes read

In 2017, Lesotho became the first country in Africa to allow the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes

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Lesotho is pioneering Africa's medical cannabis industry
A women worker picks up leaves from cannabis plants inside a greenhouse of Medigrow, a Lesotho-Canadian company that grows legal cannabis, located near Marakabei, in Lesotho. - The company has invested 17.4 million euros in this infrastructure. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

Vast white greenhouses sit high up on the slopes of Lesotho’s Marakabei town, hidden from view. 

It’s not fruit or vegetables, however, growing under the 18 plastic covers, but thousands of cannabis plants.

The cannabis is grown legally by the Lesotho-based company Medigrow and is regulated by the government. 

“We have three rows that contain 1,200 plants each. That’s 3,600 plants across the whole structure,” said Medigrow’s head of production Albert Theron, gazing proudly over the crop.

In 2017, the kingdom of 2.1 million people decided to tap into the booming medical marijuana industry, becoming the first country in Africa to allow the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

In order to meet legal standards, most traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive constituent responsible for marijuana’s intoxicating effects — are removed from the seeds.

The remaining medical version is primarily made of the non-psychoactive substance, cannabidiol (CBD), and can only be 0.03 per cent THC.

Investing in ‘green gold’ – 

Medigrow has invested $19.3 million in cannabis-growing facilities around the country’s capital, Maseru.

Lesotho is pioneering Africa's medical cannabis industry
An aerial photograph shows facilities owned by Medigrow, a Lesotho-Canadian company that grows legal cannabis near Marakabei, in Lesotho. – The company has invested 17.4 million euros in this infrastructure and it’s currently expanding its facilties. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

A heliport is also being built to ensure the cannabis — commonly referred to as “green gold” — is shipped safely and swiftly, said head of operations Relebohile Liphoto.

The investment is spurred by the industry’s positive outlook. 

The global market for medical cannabis is currently estimated at $150 billion and could reach $272 billion in 2028, according to Barclays Bank. 

“At the moment, we have almost 2,000 kilos of biomass and we are going to produce more than 1,000 litres of CBD oil,” said Liphoto.

“Depending on the market, we can sell cannabis oil at between $6,000 and $21,000 per litre.”

Mostly foreign companies –

Nicknamed “Kingdom in the Sky”, Lesotho is the only country in the world whose entire territory sits higher than 1,400 metres above sea level.

Lesotho is pioneering Africa's medical cannabis industry
Three workers from Medigrow, a Lesotho-Canadian company that grows legal cannabis, look for infections in a cannabis plant inside a greenhouse located near Marakabei, in Lesotho. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

Deputy health minister Manthabiseng Phohleli told reporters that the legalisation of cannabis presented “a huge opportunity for the country”, which boasts 300 days of sunshine per year.

“It attracts investors,” she said.

“So far, we have around 10 businesses operating on the territory.”

Entirely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho is also one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 159 out of 189 in the latest UN Human Development Index.

Unemployment is high, public services are scant and almost a quarter of the population is infected with HIV.

The government charges 30,000 euros for a one-year renewable licence to grow cannabis. 

But the cost is too steep for most locals, and the market is dominated by foreign companies, mainly from Canada and the United States.

Basothos miss out –

Mothiba Thamae has been growing apples, peaches and raisins on 7.5 hectares of land for over two decades. 

He can not afford the “green gold” licence.

“We hoped the government would give small Basotho farmers the opportunity to cultivate (cannabis) legally,” said the 38-year old, referring to Lesotho’s main ethnic group. 

“Unfortunately they did not.”

Year-long sunshine and fertile soils make Lesotho ideal for cannabis plants. 

Known as “matekoane” in Sesotho, the country’s national language, it has been grown for centuries in rural areas.

“The first historical trace of matekoane dates back to the 16th century,” said Laurent Laniel, a researcher at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. 

“The Koena (people) are believed to have settled in Lesotho around 1550 by buying land from San groups in exchange for marijuana.”

‘Cannabis money is a bonus’ –

To this day, cannabis remains an important source of revenue for many small-scale farmers.

Shasha owns a cornfield in the centre of the country, on which he has also been growing cannabis illegally for around 20 years.

Lesotho is pioneering Africa's medical cannabis industry
A Scientists from Lucan Labs, a lab specialised in analysing cannabis, works on samples in Maseru, Lesotho on August 7, 2019. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

“The vegetables feed my family. Cannabis money is a bonus,” said Shasha.

“It allows me to survive and pay for my children’s education.”

He sells his “matekoane” to a network of dealers like Jama, who smuggles up to 80 kilos of cannabis across the border to South Africa each month. 

“That yields between 400 and 500 euros,” Jama told reporters.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 70 per cent of marijuana consumed in South Africa is grown in Lesotho, making cannabis the country’s third source of revenue.

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Ghana Signs 5-Year Deal With Afro Nation

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Afro Nation

The Ghanaian government has reportedly signed a new five-year deal with the organizers of Afro Nation. According to this agreement, the much-celebrated music festival will be held annually in Ghana till 2025.

This was revealed via a tweet by Gabby Otchere Darko, a close aide to President Nana Addo and a leading member of the NPP.

“Ghana signs a five-year deal for Afro Nation to be hosted annually in Ghana. Fantastic news for traders and ravers! #UKAfricaInvestmentSummit #ChristmasIsGhana #GhanaBeyondTheReturn,” he shared.

The 3-day concert which held 27th between 30th December 2019 featured some of Africa’s biggest stars including Davido, Shatta Wale, Wizkid, Stonebwoy, Burna Boy, Zlatan Ibile, Naira Marley. Mayorkun and Kofi Kinaata. It was also headlined by popular American singer and rapper, 6lack.

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5 Albums We Are Excited About In 2020

Building up on the success of the previous year, 2020 promises a lot of amazing music.

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2019 was quite an interesting year for African music. Heralded by Nigeria’s Afrobeats, records out of the continent penetrated the Western markets and sparked impressive engagements across the world. 

Burna Boy’s album “African Giant” secured a Grammy nomination and also topped the end of the year lists of many international publications. Beyoncé also featured an all-star cast of some of the biggest names across the continent on her  “The Lion King.” Of course, this helped to reintroduce them to new markets and thrust their names in global music conversations. 

Building up on the success of the previous year, 2020 looks to promise a lot of amazing music. Here is a list of the five albums we are excited to get our hands on in 2020. 

Wizkid – Made In Lagos

Ever since the release of his international project, “Sounds From The Other Side,” fans across Africa have been clamouring for the release of Wizkid’s fourth full-length, “Made in Lagos” which he himself has been teasing for quite a while title. Last year, Wizkid took to his Instagram to tease snippets of a couple of songs expected to be on the project. And with the official release of his 2019 singles, ‘Joro’ and ‘Ghetto Love’, fans and general music lovers are fully ready for the long-teased Wizkid project this year. 

Khaligraph Jones – TBA

Coming off his big win at the 2020 Soundcity MVP Awards, picking up the Best Hip-hop act trophy over heavyweights like Sarkodie, Kwesta and Falz, the time is ripe for a new album Kenyan rapper. Popular for his distinct rapid-fire flow,  Khaligraph Jones has been at the helm of Kenya’s hip-hop over the years. With the anticipated follow-up to his 2018 debut album, “Testimony 1900,” he’d seek to reassert his dominance this year in the region and the continent.

Adekunle Gold – Afropop

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2019 witnessed a turning point in Adekunle Gold’s artistry and public image. With releases like ‘Young Love’ and Before You Wake Up’ in 2019, Adekunle Gold’s sound has morphed into something more pop-centric, substituting the traditional African sound for something more synthetic. The singer has also been more expressive with his fashion and outlook. This, therefore, makes his next project “Afropop” one to look out for, as we’d love to find an Adekunle Gold shed his signature sound for something more pop and trendy.

 Sho Madjozi – TBA

South African rapper, Sho Madjozi was one of the most exciting acts out of the continent last year. Coming off the success of her 2018 debut album “Limpopo Champions League,” the singer went on to release her hit record ‘John Cena’, a song even the WWE superstar himself approves. Sho Madjozi went on to enjoy an amazing press run that kept her in everyone’s face. And now, she has built up so much hype around herself that her fans across the continent are waiting for what she plans to release next. 

Shatta Wale – TBA 

Undoubtedly one of Africa’s most controversial superstars, Ghana’s Shatta Wale is one known for his consistency across his album. Ever since 2016, not a year has gone by without a project from the self-crowned dancehall king. And given the quality of his stellar 2018 and 2019 releases, “Reign” and “Wonder Boy,” many are already wondering what king Shatta would come up with next.

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Sniffing out the menace called poaching

The role of man’s best friend in the war against poaching

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Dogs have been instrumental over the years in the war against wildlife poachers. Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine

There is an old saying that borders on hunters learning to shoot without aiming, since birds have learned to fly without perching. In the same vein, as perpetrators of illegal activities devise new ways to escape detection and punishment, those dedicated to apprehending them need to, in turn, implement new methods to remain one step ahead. The war against wildlife poaching still rages on as the years roll by, but in recent times, poachers and smugglers have had to deal with a new adversary: man’s best friend.

In hunting for hides, skin, horns and tusks, these people, whose life’s work is to put wildlife at risk for material gain, have deployed all sorts of modern weaponry in furthering their cause, but now they will have to deal with dogs, too. Deployed in various locations across six African countries, there are scores of these dogs, who have helped in tracking down smugglers and traffickers with their efficiency in sniffing out elephant tusks, rhino horns and pangolin scales.

Since Canines for Conservation, the programme initiated to involve dogs in the fight against wildlife poaching, kicked off in 2011, there have been 400 seizures of illegal wildlife products. These days, wildlife authorities in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana and Cameroon require employees to be skilled in dog handling. Employees who take up the handling of dogs undergo training programmes which stretch for up to 10 weeks, and they are also carefully matched with the dogs that they would be working with.

Wild animals are being poached on a massive scale, with millions of individual animals of thousands of species worldwide killed or captured from their native habitats. Poaching poses a growing threat to elephants, rhinos, and other charismatic animals. Some animals, such as birds, reptiles, and primates, are captured live so that they can be kept or sold as exotic pets. Slaughtered animals, on the other hand, have commercial value as food, jewellery, decor, or traditional medicine. The ivory tusks of African elephants, for example, are carved into trinkets or display pieces. The meat of apes, snakes, and other bush animals is considered a delicacy in parts of Africa.

Poaching has devastating consequences for wildlife. In some instances, it’s the primary reason why an animal faces a risk of extinction. This is the case with the African elephant, more than 100,000 of which were killed between 2014 and 2017 for ivory. Poaching has also had a catastrophic impact on rhinos, with more than a thousand slaughtered a year for their horns.

Training these dogs to top levels of detecting takes about 4 to 5 months.  All the wildlife products they are required to sniff out are hidden in various ways, from wrapping ivory in jars of coffee to putting a lion’s tooth in a thermos. The dogs sniff luggage and cargoes at airports, and the Canines for Conservation programme, aware of the tactics employed by traffickers, works closely with airport authorities in the countries where the dogs are deployed. These canine partners, whose role in fighting wildlife poachers over the years has been acknowledged, are also fed specially, and are kept in kennels and large spaces where they can relax.

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