With the death of Zambia’s president, Michael Sata, at the end of October, the country is at a turning point for a new crop to drive their economy — and that crop could soon be cannabis. Though no other African nation regulates the crop officially, Peter Sinkamba announced his candidacy under the Green Party banner with promises of doing just that.
Though Zambia made its bones on the copper trade beginning in the 1960s, leading environmentalists — including Sinkamba — have been calling for a new era of environmentally-friendly economic gains. His plan calls for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use in Zambia, which would be a first in Africa and a major change for the generally conservative nation. The idea would be to export the surplus crops for profit, which he claims could be worth billions.
Sinkamba seems to have the pedigree to actually accomplish the job too. In college he found himself as head of the student union and was ultimately expelled for organizing a protest against the government’s funding cut to the school. Ultimately he was blacklisted from many jobs in the country because of his actions. Seeing entrepreneurship as his only option, the young Zambian began an exporting business which made him a few cool millions and had people coining him a “playboy millionaire.” While the money was good, Sinkamba wanted something more for his country, so he ultimately left business to start the Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE). This is what led him to realizing his political dreams and ultimately to marijuana.
“Historically, we’ve been the kind of people that have consumed a lot of marijuana,” Sinkamba told the Guardian. “It is massively cultivated across the whole country [for the black market] … So what we’re saying is, look, let’s come out of it and legalise it;” a plan which he surmises could allow the nation to capture 10% of the global cannabis market.
International drug experts seem skeptical of his plan — both in legal terms and economic terms — which would require the ambitious Zambian to masterfully maneuver global drug policy to find loopholes for medicinal use.
“When we look at the trends, the world is going in the direction of legalising marijuana,” Sinkamba explaine to the Guardian. “But we don’t want to be the last ones. We want to be the first ones.”