Tracing back from the African countries colonial period, cannabis, commonly labeled as ‘weed,’ had been criminalized to the extent of being treated as a dangerous drug in the community. Some countries had harsh laws against the possession or growing of cannabis, and the jail sentence was around 7 to 10 years. Hence governments used this deterrent measure to scare people from entertaining any activity that involves weed.
However, the 20th century brought about new economic trends and a novel way of thinking towards the utilization of cannabis. African countries are usually under the banner of ‘slow developers,’ which is why they were placed into the ‘3rd world’ countries category. Due to this, it is no surprise that Africans were late in realizing the numerous financial benefits of cultivating, distributing, and selling cannabis on the international market.
Lesotho was the first African country to break out of the cocoon and legalized the cultivation and commercialization of cannabis in 2017. In 2018 Zimbabwe followed suit as the second African country to allow the farming of cannabis [Source], then later in that year, South Africa also joined in.
The year 2019 saw Zambia and Uganda passing laws that endorsed the growing and exporting of cannabis to European countries. Ghana, Malawi, and Rwanda authorized cannabis exports and farming in 2020 [Source]. The latest country to join the party is Morocco which is now in cannabis cultivation and exportation.
The cultivation and exportation of cannabis have proved to be financial heaven for the aforementioned African countries. Economically the plant is beneficial and is an economic boost, especially for the striving and marginalized nations.
Considering that most of the buyers are European states such as Canada and the United States of America, this is a greener pasture for any seller to graze on the field of foreign currency. This also means a starved market is waiting for the product to be bought in no time and the gains acquired quickly. One might argue that cannabis can even sell more than diamonds or ivory, given that minerals and ivory have markets that are affected or influenced by political trends.
But cannabis on its own is a push factor that can prompt various buyers to facilitate its safe transportation from the African plateau straight to Europe. Because of the surging cancer cases worldwide, ‘weed’ has gained popularity for being one of the major elements that can be used to produce medicines to cure cancer. Thus, the need for cannabis has risen to greater heights globally as it can enhance the medical sector and help cure chronic diseases.
As a cash crop, cannabis’s profits can even topple the sales from tobacco, flowers, and wheat. Weather conditions in Africa also favor the growing of cannabis, especially the African sunlight and rainfall patterns. Due to this, farmers can pour their resources into the farming of cannabis while being confident of huge returns compared to other crops such as cotton, wheat, and maize.
The plant stem of cannabis is a good material for manure used to fertilize any crop. Traditional and religious persons have been using dried cannabis in religious ceremonies. These practices are happening in many African countries, so the growing of cannabis is greatly welcomed by these religious individuals.
The legality of cannabis has a visible downside to the African countries and their citizens. For starters, due to the lack of technological advancement, Africans cannot process cannabis, so they have to ship the raw produce straight from the field. A lot of profits are lost when one sells unprocessed natural produce. The buyers will gain more after processing the harvest and delivering it to different factories and manufacturers.
Also, a lot of money is needed in securing the cannabis fields from trespassers. For instance, in Zimbabwe, the only land owned by security institutions like the military or paramilitary were given licenses to grow cannabis because they already have secured lands for agricultural purposes.
Ordinary citizens could not afford to apply for the permit to grow cannabis, let alone pay for security installments around the fields. Africa was blessed with many resources, but because of high levels of corruption by government officials, the masses are always suffering. It is a loss for many Africans if their government invests chunks of money into cannabis exportation and the gains are not equally distributed.
Corruption also extends to the illegal distribution of cannabis that happens in the countries above. There have been reports of access to these fields being given to certain members who harvest the plants for selling on the black market.
Weed is now flooded among the African youths and has become a health hazard, especially to the unemployed ones who spend most of their time malingering in the streets. Smoking weed can worsen an asthmatic person, cause lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and addiction. Nigeria has wholly dismissed the idea of bringing cannabis into their backyard as it is likened to bringing a wolf into a sheep’s kraal.
The majority of Nigerians, in their defense, argued that cannabis is a carrier of social disorder if abused by people, and it is likely that people will eventually abuse it if given a chance, and their cultural and religious beliefs influenced this decision.
From a neo-colonialism perspective, Africans, through the exportation of cannabis, are still oppressed under the ‘Neo-colonialism’ banner as propounded by Kwame Nkurumah. Africa does not benefit but is just a producer. The European powers rip all the medical benefits from cannabis which they will sell as medicines, syrup, or pills to Africa at unreasonably high prices.
More so, the motivation to venture into such a business was purely birthed from financial need, and the leaders did not consider the well-being of their people if they were exposed to such a harmful drug plant. The so-called ‘power house’ USA fails to curb the abuse of such drugs on its front porch, so those African countries have exposed a dangerous entity to the masses that they also cannot control.
It is crystal clear that African states launched cannabis cultivation and exportation solely based on the economic benefits that it could bring to the respective nations. It has undoubtedly proved to be a reliable financial boost that can help eradicate poverty in the ‘3rd world’ countries.
The social dangers of bringing such a plant into various communities filled with unemployed youths, marred with mismanagement of funds, high levels of corruption, and an already existing drug abuse problem were overlooked or not even considered. But it is unarguable that indeed cannabis is a viable business for African countries, and more countries are bound to legalize cannabis soon.