One more ! On February 27, the Parliament of Malawi approved a bill that legalizes the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and industrial use, as do several countries in the south of the continent. The measure gives the green light to the exploitation of the plant for the manufacture of textiles and ropes in particular. According to the text consulted by AFP, a regulator will be responsible for issuing licenses for the production, sale and distribution of the product. Offenders will face stiff fines of up to $ 70,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 25 years. The law also specifically prohibits the use of children for the production of cannabis, a practice seen several times in the tobacco sector. The United States had also suspended its tobacco imports from Malawi last year to denounce the work of miners in its production.
An opportunity for farmers
The country, renowned for the quality of its hemp, therefore relies on the economic benefits of cannabis to compensate for the figures of the tobacco industry, which is losing momentum. Chauncy Jere, spokesperson for the Malawi Hemp Development Association, said, “Cannabis will be a lucrative industry and demand will be high. Its exploitation could offer real opportunities to the peasants of Malawi, who almost alone drive the economy of the country. Agriculture, dominated by tobacco with 46% of exports, sugar with 9% and coffee with 7%, in fact represents 29.5% of national GDP. Above all, however, it could reduce poverty, which affects almost all operators in the sector. You should know that in Malawi, poverty affects 88% of the rural population, against 18% in urban areas, a lack of infrastructure and increased dependence on weather conditions making farmers very vulnerable.
To attract investors, and that the exploitation of cannabis therefore benefits farmers, the authorities will have to make efforts in the business environment in particular. Because Malawi does not have a very good place in the international rankings. It is 133rd out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business, and 109th out of 190 in the perception of corruption according to Transparency International. A situation which could however improve with the return of donor support, after a suspension of several years linked to corruption in the country. In early May, the World Bank indicated that it was resuming budget aid to Malawi with the granting of an $ 80 million loan to the authorities. The operation aims to support agriculture and the management of public finances in terms of transparency and strengthening of controls.
In Africa, a lucrative business
With this law, Malawi hopes to return to economic dynamism. It is part of an approach that has been very successful in southern Africa. After Lesotho – the first African country to have legislated on the exploitation of cannabis, now its third source of income -, it was the turn of Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa to address the question . Because the cannabis business, although controversial, is lucrative. According to Tito Mboweni, the South African Minister of Finance, its production will eventually add more than 4 billion rand, or $ 251 million, to the annual national budget.
In Zambia, cannabis export revenues could reach $ 36 billion, according to Peter Sinkamba, chairman of the Zambian opposition Green Party. Across Africa, which already produces 38,000 tonnes per year, the business could be worth $ 7.1 billion by 2023, according to a study by Prohibition Partners. For the specialized British company, Nigeria, Ghana, Eswatini, Mozambique, Zimbabwe or even South Africa and Lesotho will be the main producers of cannabis of tomorrow. And Malawi has just joined them.