The Republic of Rwanda has quite a few interesting features. It is located just a few degrees south of the equator. Bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is a highly elevated piece of sovereign real estate, picturesquely located where the Great African Lakes and East Africa meet.
It has also joined other African nations, particularly in the south, in beginning cannabis reform that will lead shortly to production. Like Lesotho, the geography is also mountainous, however maintains the distinction of being the most densely populated African country. The population is both young and rural with the average age of Rwandans at the shockingly low number of 19 years.
Work in Progress
The beginning of reform happened last summer when the country announced its plans to commence cultivation in June, when a framework for the legal industry (from cultivation, processing, distribution, and use) was released.
According to local news reports, the Rwanda Development Board has also now designated 134 hectares for cannabis production. The RDB also announced that it has received a great deal of interest in exporting the product and processed versions thereof.
Per a statement released by the agency, “RDB has been working with other government stakeholders to assess proposals received. The government of Rwanda set a rigorous process to select companies that have or are partnering with companies that have previous experience in the production of cannabis for medical and therapeutic reasons. The assessment process has different stages. So far 5 companies are in the advanced stage.”
No license has been issued yet.
Tragically, the country is also following a trend that has been seen in other countries (like Greece, the UK, and Spain). Namely there will be limited reform for companies, but solely for the purpose of export income. Europe is of course at the top of the list of destination countries.
The local law governing the consumption of cannabis is a large fine ($540 to about $5,000). This is a huge amount of money in a country where the average monthly income is around $200. Prosecution can also involve jail time for between three and five years.
The Great Export Market
Here is the new face of the global industry. Countries need cash, especially now when every government, globally, is sucking for income and economies are disrupted by both a pandemic and a war with global implications. Cannabis reform is one place where countries from Africa, Central America, and South America are starting to march with an increasingly accelerated pace.
Production in such places costs a fraction of what it is other places—even with proper GMP (or good manufacturing procedures) standards in place.
Beyond this, there are increasing numbers of countries (e.g. Portugal) who will charge such producers a huge fee per gram of such product to “convert” it to GMP, even if grown outdoors and per a certification of GACP (a sovereign standard for cultivation practices for other crops).
It is clear at least to leaders in such economies that cannabis represents a golden opportunity, particularly given the continued intransigence to reform that includes domestic cultivation in most of the world.
However, the more countries enter the cultivation and processing game, the lower prices will fall. There will be a race to the bottom, and fast, in a market where prices are already so high that only a privileged few can afford them, even in Europe.
Regardless, hemp and cannabis are increasingly valuable crops for other reasons too. This starts with industrial and environmental uses as well as the ability to provide a much cheaper and widespread medication for conditions that people in developing economies still do not have ready access to.
Even the most cynical world economist will see good in that.
It also appears that many parts of the world are also on track to create sustainable agriculture, and for all the right reasons.
Therefore, there is cause to celebrate that another African country has joined the cannabis club.