By Tunicia Jegels
….and some anecdotal sprinkles by Kagiso Mnisi
The journey into the cannabis economy has brought with it many surprises. The list is endless, you think you know the game until you meet the players. Did you know that most of the world’s fifty countries who are regulating a cannabis market have done so within the last year? Or that Sub Sahara alone has a combined 200 million hectares of uncultivated land?
At the risk of abusing my [Tunicia] new-found favourite source on all thing’s cannabis – trade, herewith a few interesting facts and figures on the motherland’s fertile ground for world domination. New Front Data has published an elaborate and detailed report into the African continent’s hemp and cannabis industry.
‘The Africa Regional Hemp & Cannabis Report: 2019 Industry Outlook’, says the legal regulated market is only a fraction of global demand. Africa’s demand for cannabis is estimated to be valued at $33.7 billion USD. The report also reveals the average demand for cannabis in Africa is 11.4% while the global average is 6%. This means that not only is Africa the perfect growing ground for the plant, it is also home to millions of users i.e the market is huge.
“Africa’s most sizeable cannabis markets are those with the largest populations: Nigeria ($15.3 billion), and Ethiopia ($9.8 billion), followed by Morocco ($3.5 billion), a noted source of hash for most of Europe.”
“They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.”
Among the many recommendations and observations, these two stood out in the ‘The Africa Regional Hemp & Cannabis Report: 2019 Industry Outlook’
- Attracting foreign investment in the industry will not be a challenge, but stakeholders must carefully consider the nature and extent of foreign participation in the industry.
- Western stakeholders unfamiliar with Africa must be aware of the realities of operating in African markets.
“Cannabis and hemp cultivation may be ideal candidates for African countries looking to take advantage of their untapped farmlands and drive employment for the continent’s fast-growing labour force.”
The cannabis value chain is vast and crosses all sectors of the economy owing it elaborate industrial and recreational value and supply chains. But with all this opportunity that this ancient plant presents, it will be up to the government to ensure that an equitable industry develops that forces international investors to partner with local structures and supports small businesses.
Any narrative which dares to poke at the fragile glass between the informal and the formal, the improvised and organised, the neglected and the ubiquitous; is bound to be peppered with an idiosyncratic plot and characters. This is precisely the arc behind ‘The Chain’, a two-part podcast about how the burgeoning economy around the cannabis plant in South Africa. In its wake, ‘The Chain’ maps out the Freakonomics around the loop of small-scale growth in urban greenhouses, street-level trading, to the promise that comes with medical licensing of marijuana; right back to the stronghold of indigenous knowledge systems vested in the plant.
Embarking on this podcast project came with that good old imposter-syndrome that left me [Tunicia] feeling like I was at least, on the economics side – hardly qualified for. As a somewhat activist and user of cannabis for my own wellbeing, speaking to the so-called illicit market was easy, yet translating the wealth of information into the market and economic jargon came with its own intimidations. Nevertheless, the characters featured in The Chain are some of the most dynamic Afropolitans I have encountered in my journalistic career and have opened my eyes to the risks that full regulation and decriminalisation presents both at ground level and macroeconomically.
Through it all, the nexus between partial legality and the possibilities that comes with growing the economy via cannabis, is hurled to centre in The Chain episodes. Enjoy the journey.
Listen to Part 1 of The Chain here.