Marijuana is one of the most controversial plants and the most commonly used drug in the world. Despite its widespread use, it is still illegal in all African countries except Lesotho and Zimbabwe. It comes with different names, species, stereotypes and myths, but these stories rarely highlight the plants immense economic benefit. Lesotho was the first African country to officially explore marijuanas economic benefit by legalizing it for medicinal purposes. Today, marijuana is the countrys third largest source of income. Zimbabwe has also legalized medicinal marijuana to take advantage of the highly profitable mbanje business.
Behind the euphoria of marijuanas immense economic benefit lies a fear that legalization will drive out small scale local farmers and short-circuit the economic benefits of this resource.
Capitalism and Foreign Investment
The marijuana business in Africa is already attracting foreign investors. In November 2018, A Canadian firm invested 10 million dollars in Medigrow, a company that was granted permission to cultivate marijuana by the Lesotho Ministry of Health. Today, Medigrow employs over 400 people and is worth about 100 million dollars. This trend will continue as the industry expands.
Farmers may face significant economic barriers that would increase the gap between the rich foreign investors and the poor local farmers. This inequality spurred by capitalism, prevents locals from enjoying the full benefits of this growing industry. Alternatively, local farmers would focus on producing the drug for recreational use, which is still illegal.
The long-term effect of marijuana abuse in a continent with the youngest population in the world paints a sad picture for the future. Medicinal Marijuana produces varieties that do not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient for recreational purposes. CBD (Cannabidiol) oils are the significant elements needed for medicinal use. The industry may not provide all the solutions to the problem of drug abuse, but it will generate employment and a lot of revenue. Studies indicate that a quarter of all cannabis in the world is produced in Africa. If grown and exported legally, the drug could boost the continents economy by delivering about $80 billion annually. This figure is enough to address Africas infrastructure deficit, which is estimated to be about $75 billion.
Marijuana can lift many African states out of poverty, but it demands a conscious effort to develop a structure that will enable the benefits to cascade to locals in terms of economic and financial inclusion, welfare improvement and provision of basic infrastructure to help them take full advantage of this opportunity. Marijuanas potential to deliver a better economic future for Africa is undeniable. We can change its story, from gateway drug to the cornerstone of Africas economic revolution. The world awaits Africas next move!
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