The Potential of Cannabis in Africa.
DISCLAIMER: THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE IN NO WAY ADVOCATES THE USE OF CANNABIS FOR RECREATIONAL PURPOSES OR OTHERWISE, OR ITS LEGALIZATION IN AREAS WHERE IT IS PROHIBITED.
THIS ARTICLE IS STRICTLY FOR SPECULATIVE PURPOSES ONLY.
It’s not a shocker that cannabis has a myriad of benefits, ranging from medicinal applications to the building industry. That’s the reason it’s getting legalized in countries like Canada, USA, parts of Europe and elsewhere. In most of those countries, it is the medical value of the plant that has pushed its legalization.
In Africa however, the case is a bit different. Cannabis is only legal in two countries: Lesotho and Zimbabwe, with the later only licensing its growing for research purposes. So technically, cannabis is only legal in Lesotho. And we know the size of Lesotho, and its potential to influence Africa.
If the countries that have permitted cannabis are benefitting from it, Africa is losing a lot.
In this article, I’d like to look at what it would look like if cannabis was legal to farm, consume, carry out research on, sell, manufacture and even export.
Before we start…
Let me clarify two types of cannabis. There’s marijuana and hemp plant. Marijuana is more psychoactive and is the one used more for medical purposes. Hemp is less psychoactive and is used mostly in the industry to manufacture items like paper, textiles and other materials. Both types come from Cannabis Sativa species, and both are illegal in Africa except for the two countries mentioned earlier.
Let’s first look at marijuana and its health benefits.
It fights cancer.
It’s almost obvious.
We Africans in particular know what cancer looks like; a ten headed beast with one bloodshot eye, a long pointy tail and nails, two horns and breathing fire. Well, not really, but cancer is a real real monster. If you have never been called for a fundraising in the village for someone who is being taken for cancer treatment in India, whisper a ‘thank you’.
In Africa, cancer is nearly always fatal! Its patients and their relatives have little or no hope of overcoming. The number of fatalities is not only extremely high; it is rising rapidly and is expected to reach nearly 22 million cases by 2030! Sure it will strain national and regional health budgets and cause great hardships for patients and families. 22 million families!
Getting a bit economical, the global spend on cancer in 2010 was 1.2 trillion US Dollars! So virtually, one continent spends at least 100 billion US Dollars on cancer annually.
Don’t you think, as Africans, we could reduce this amount by using marijuana, even if by a fifth? Hmmm…
Moving on, cannabis can prevent and regulate diabetes.
Yet another elephant in the room (if at all there can be two).
Statistics of diabetes are almost similar to those of cancer, at least if you consider how depressing they are. (By the way cannabis also treats depression). For example, of people with diabetes, only 11% receive drugs. Its treatment costs could reach 59.3B USD by 2030 if type 2 diabetes continues to upsurge. As of 2015, 1.2% 0f gross GDP was spent on the disease. Again, I think we can reduce fatalities and money spent to treat the disease by using marijuana.
Other ailments and disorders it helps with include weight loss, broken bones, ADD/ADHD, AIDS, OCD, anxiety, arthritis, nausea, headache, asthma and blood pressure.
That was medical cannabis.
Let’s go to industrial cannabis.
“Almost half of the 10 million graduates churned out of the over 668 universities in Africa yearly do not get job,” Kelvin Balogun – President of Coca-Cola, Central, East and West Africa.
“Youth unemployment and underemployment are among the main barriers to development in West Africa.”
The main benefit of industrial cannabis will be to provide employment opportunities. Let’s look at how:
Agriculture is the backbone of many African countries. Cannabis farming will provide employment opportunities to millions of young and also aged Africans. Growing hemp is not a complicated process. It matures in 12-16 weeks. Farmers can grow both marijuana and hemp and sell it.
Yes, hemp can be consumed, as a source of proteins. How will this help? It will boost food security, reduce cases of kwashiorkor and treatment costs of the same, and create employment to manufacturers and grocers.
Clothing and textiles.
Another industry. More employment, less cloth imports, and as we may like, more swag!
Building materials, biodegradable plastics and composite materials.
More employment, green buildings and conservation of the environment.
Hemp grows at a faster rate compared to trees. One acre can produce durable paper to the equivalent of four acres of trees. How much land has been saved? What about trees? And time? The result will be cheaper paper, and obviously more employment.
We know what a big problem we have with fuel as Africans. Much of the population in rural and even urban areas use firewood and charcoal for cooking, fuels which are not clean, safe or environmentally sustainable. This magic plant could solve that and create more employment in this sector.
Is this all?
I haven’t highlighted all the benefits of cannabis here and with more research, most likely, it will only get better. Think of the multiple investment opportunities that will arise as new industries emerge. Think of the companies we could start, the employment we could create, the revenue the government could collect, the foreign exchange we could save, the reduced health risks, the cheaper and readily available treatment, the productivity losses we could eliminate due to sicknesses, anxiety, depression. Just how much could we save, and create?
Bodaboda (motorbike taxi) in Kenya, created one million job opportunities for youth in Kenya, and this one is just a 1 bike 1 job venture. What could cannabis, a sector with multiple industries turn out to be?
Could our next billionaires come from this sector?
This video explains some more benefits derived from cannabis.
1. African organization for research and training in cancer
2. UCT Communication and marketing department. (www.uct.ac.za)