Africa's budding cannabis market

Cannabis has been employed in traditional African herbal medicine since time immemorial. Today, much of the world is playing catch-up.

The multi-billion dollar global cannabis industry is booming as companies cite the benefits of medical marijuana for treating pain and inflammation and possibly even soothing mental illness and addictions. The global legal cannabis market could be worth $272bn by 2028, according to the 2018 European Consumer Staples Report from Barclays. 

With countries around the world legalising cannabis for medicinal and even recreational use, no continent is untouched by pro-marijuana reforms. Africa is no exception, as previously strict governments mull deregulation in a bid to diversify their economies and generate foreign exchange earnings.   

Illegal cultivation of the plant is a key source of income for impoverished rural areas of countries such as Morocco, and according to Dallas McMillan, founder and CEO of US firm Rhizo Sciences, Africa is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of cannabis. However, the continent’s legal industry is still in its early stages, lagging far behind its competitors in developed countries.

The industry has the potential to make $7.1bn annually by 2023, European-based cannabis market consultancy Prohibition Partners estimates in its latest Africa Cannabis Report, but a lot of work needs to be done if it is to realise its full potential.  

“Its a volatile industry at the moment,” says Eoin Keenan, a consultant at Prohibition Partners.

“But if African nations introduce pro-business legislation, enforce standards and create high-quality pharmaceutical products there’s no reason why Africa can’t be a major player in the global cannabis industry.”  


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