Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda Lead the Way in East African Cannabis Development; Kenya and Tanzania Still Strongly Prohibitionist at Every Level
1 November 2022, 05:00:00
Malawi expects its first medicinal cannabis export crop in the next three months; Rwanda has finalized a framework for the East African Community (EAC) for cannabis exports and is calling for international investors, while a UK pharma is putting real money into Uganda. Fellow EAC bloc members, Kenya and Tanzania, ironically the region's biggest producers of illegal cannabis, continue to shun any form of legalization.
Malawi’s Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) has issued 48 licenses for medicinal cannabis cultivation and 35 other firms have permits for industrial hemp production. Six companies are licensed for research purposes to develop various varieties of cannabis for export.
"The licenses have a one-year lifespan subject to renewal, and we expect that within the period, the licensees will have produced the crop as planned... they will start exporting between January and February next year when the economy will start benefiting from the industry," CRA director general, Ketulo Salipira was quoted in The Exchange .
The CRA has pegged medicinal cannabis cultivation and license fees at US$10 000 while hemp cultivation, processing and selling licenses cost US$2 000.
While farmers have complained that the cost of permits is too high, Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) CEO, Jacob Nyirongo, says cannabis should be an alternative crop to tobacco and said “there is need for government commitment to ensure that the value chain takes an inclusive process.”
He said cannabis was healthier than tobacco and had more revenue-generating potential over the longer term as international medical cannabis demand was growing at 21% a year while tobacco consumption was declining across the world.
Further support for Malawi’s cannabis ambitions has come from Malawi’s African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) General Secretary, Dr Hermogene Nsengimana. He was reported in The Exchange Africa that Malawi should look further than just exporting cannabis, as that other financial and medical gains could be found in other areas of the value chain. He said there was a need for Malawi to invest in the manufacture of medicines from herbs and shrubs, including cannabis.
He said Africa should have been ready to manufacture both treatment and vaccines to counter Covid-19 and although western pharmaceuticals may not want to hear it, traditional medicines can be processed using modern technology to create various medicines that can be used to treat a range of conditions.
"Covid-19 exposed our fragility. We need to take advantage of already existing traditional medicines to develop our pharmaceutical industry," said Dr Nsengimana.
Malawi’s enthusiasm for developing a cannabis export economy is shared by Rwanda. Rwanda Development Board CEO Clare Akamanzi, CEO said there was great value in African medicinals. "Some of these therapeutic crops can fetch around US$10 million per hectare of production” she said, claiming that a single hectare of cannabis “fetches the highs of US$300 000, a comparatively high figure in respect to traditional commercial crops”.
"The country has developed and approved the bloc's first framework for cannabis export and is now reviewing bids from interested investors.”
Uganda has landed its first medical cannabis exports in the United Kingdom this year and has attracted the interest of UK-based Eden Pharma, which has bold ambitions for the country to be a major supplier to Europe.
The EAC’s major economies, Kenya and Tanzania do not see any framework for legal cannabis, despite being the region’s biggest producers of illegal cannabis. The Exchange Africa points out the irony that Kenya and Tanzania are already supplying local and international markets with illegal cannabis yet their governments appear blind to the benefits of trying to bring illegal growers into the mainstream.
In fact, Tanzania has just called for a renewed “war on drugs”!