Zimbabwe just commissioned a Swiss company to open a multimillion-dollar cannabis facility to help kickstart its new medical marijuana industry.
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa gave a speech to celebrate the opening of the $27 million facility, which was set up by Swiss Biocieuticals Limited in the West Province of Zimbabwe. The new facility includes a cannabis farm and a processing plant for creating medical cannabis oils and other products. Zimbabwe has granted the company a license to grow cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes only.
“This milestone is a testimony of the successes of my Government’s Engagement and Re-engagement Policy,” said President Mnangagwa at the opening event, Business Insider Africa reports. “It further demonstrates the confidence that Swiss companies have in our economy through their continued investment in Zimbabwe. I extend my profound congratulations to the Swiss Biocieuticals Limited for this timely investment in the medicinal cannabis farm, processing plant and value chain, worth US$27 million.”
Zimbabwe legalized medical marijuana back in 2018, but it has taken years to finally get the industry off the ground. Mnangagwa described the launch of the new facility as a milestone and expressed his hope that legal weed will boost the local economy and encourage foreign companies to invest in local businesses. But although the country has already issued 57 medical marijuana business licenses, the vast majority of these businesses have yet to open their doors.
"I challenge other players within the medicinal cannabis sub-sector to speedily set up their enterprises, focusing on value addition and beneficiation,” Mnangagwa said, according to Business Insider Africa. “It is disappointing that since 2018, only 15 out of the 57 entities issued with cannabis operating licenses have been operational.”
Mnangagwa lauded Swiss Biocieuticals for building and opening its facility in such a relatively short amount of time. But without foreign capital, local farmers are struggling to get their own cannabis businesses off the ground. Zimbabwe requires that all medical marijuana be organically grown in secure greenhouses, and the cost of building these facilities is out of reach for many farmers.
"A greenhouse is very costly," said Munyaradzi Nyanungo, one of the few Zimbabwean farmers to have successfully opened a medical pot farm, to Reuters. Nyanungo explained that it cost “something around $500,000 just to set up the structure” of his greenhouse, which doesn't include the cost of his facility's irrigation system.
Nyanungo was able to get his farm off the ground by partnering with US-based King Kong Organics, which supplies him with cannabis seeds and other support. Other businesses are struggling to find the cash or partners necessary to build their own greenhouses, but for those that can, the medical cannabis industry looks to be far more profitable than tobacco, the country's top agricultural export.
"We stand to sell cannabis at $25 per kilogram, which is five, six times more than what a good tobacco crop can give you,” said Nyanungo to Reuters. “We are actually sitting on a green gold mine.”
Many other African nations have joined the rush to cash in on the global cannabis industry, which is expected to top $35 billion by the end of 2022. Uganda, Zambia, and Rwanda have all legalized the cultivation and export of medical cannabis – but sadly, none of these countries will allow their own citizens to use medical pot. Lesotho is one of the only African countries to have fully legalized medical cannabis for its own citizens, and South Africa is the only place on the continent where personal recreational use is legal.