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Cannabis FDI: sending shockwaves in Ethiopia
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Cannabis FDI: sending shockwaves in Ethiopia

As Ethiopia is inviting the world to invest in its local economy as a strategy to change its narrative, despite its financial benefits, the issue of medicinal cannabis is becoming a wedge issue for most. This comes as some nations are joining the foray and reputable organizations such as the World Health Organization, now led by Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom (PhD) and the United States Food and Drug Administration are endorsing the benefits of it for medicinal use.

The new finding from WHO indicated how, “Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions such as Dravet syndrome” and that it “is not likely to be abused or create dependence as for other cannabinoids”

Propelling by an ideal weather, cheap labor costs and a government that promotes foreign investment as a strategy to change its narrative, Ethiopia, like a number of African nations is fast becoming the next frontier for many, including interests from Israel, Canada and the United States based companies looking to repeat the experiences of Lesotho within one of Africa’s fastest growing economy. 

As the world is liberalizing and changes its criminalization, the legal growth of cannabis is expected to grow to USD 146 billion, where according to the Grand View Research, the majority of that is to be directly linked to medicinal cannabis in the world and many African nations are now catching up to this new phenomenal, as well as realize its commercial advantage as a way to help build the needed infrastructures of the future and the pressing social safety nets needed to take care of a population that is still the fastest growing in the world.

The news also comes as former proponents are joining the fray in the legal manufacturing of cannabis and relax its criminalization as a contributor to better health.

Within Africa, it has now become the norm, to nation such as Lesotho to grow cannabis for the exclusive needs of nations in Europe and North America, in particular to the Canadian exclusive market. There are many that have entered in partnership to grow and introduce legal and secured operations and more looking at the continent as the next frontier.

For one of Africa’s poorest nations, Lesotho, the realization of the potential of cannabis for science has been big business, taking a slice of its estimated growth, which medical cannabis estimated by the Grand View Research to be worth about USD 100 billion in less than a decade.

In a laboratory-like greenhouses, heavily guarded compounds, with thousands of people employed, emerged in well-paying jobs that is otherwise is unattainable; it’s a booming business and such an example of how poor nations, with proven science, can benefit economically and send the tickle-down benefits to the working poor.

Taking the endorsement of WHO and others and looking at the lived experiences of Lesotho as an example, Zimbabwe, prone to high unemployment and unrest became the second African nation to allow the growth of it last year. The country granted a five year license, allowing the possession, transportation of it, putting a sting safeguard not to allow for it to be used within the nation by way of an illicit use.

In Toronto, Canada for instance, one of its leading right-leaning former police chief and politician, Julian Fantiono, who used a career fighting against its use and for its criminalization, has now embraced its decriminalization and has become an advocate of its benefit as treating post-traumatic stress disorder and managing pain. The likes of Fantiono and others have given the issue a by-partisan mainstream support and not just one that used to be supported by progressives of the left.

As Canada liberalizes its cannabis law under the progressive leadership Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, more and more Canadian companies have begun to invest in Lesotho and others for the importation of the goods to the growing Canadian market. Most recently, the Canadian Supreme Cannabis Company put more than USD 10 million to its operations, helping create needed well-paying jobs and helping dispel the misgivings of its medical benefits and use.

In many parts of the United States, even in the era of science-prone Donald Trump and most of Europe have also began to realize the benefits of its, neglecting the old taboo and have embraced its science proven benefits and its obvious commercialization.

Back in Ethiopia, it has not been easy trying to convince Ethiopian authorities to grant license to those willing to invest in the growth of cannabis in the nation. The Ethiopian Investment Commission, known to be debited to bureaucracy, has been slow to make a decision on the growth of cannabis for a while.

The commission that has taken a beating for allowing the exportation of donkey meat by a Chinese company for instance and has been careful not to follow in that direction. In a nation that has its own traditional ways, the government has adopted a new style of a grassroots leadership, where culture and traditional ways triumph more than a need to attract needed foreign investors to the nation’s economy.  

Recently, reacting on the lobbying of the effort in the rural parts of the nation by companies and lobbyists looking to invest in the growing and production of CBD (the chemical component of the Cannabis Sativa plant) in Ethiopia, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, Amir Aman (MD) abruptly announced a quick swift decision via social media, indicating there was to be no license forthcoming.

“The Ministry of Health position regarding the growing of cannabis for Medical purposes in Ethiopia has neither been recognized nor given regulatory approval,” he announced on Twitter. “Previous requests for such investments have been and will continue to be denied.”

Ethiopia no longer pursues foreign investment blindly,” an investor told The Reporter. “It is now in a position to pick and chooses the kinds of investment it needs and wants, however, the government should weigh the pros and cons of each and make a decision, not based on old thinking, but after studying the experiences of others and its benefits,” he said. “Right now, if it’s not taking too much time to make a decision, it’s making decisions on the fly, like Donald Trump, done on social media.”

The leadership of the Ethiopian Investment Commission, which has been lobbied for months, was quick to react, borrowing the reasoning of the minister and without giving any reasons; its head said all licenses under consideration would be denied.

“Based on his (the ministers) advice, we wish to inform the investment community that EIC will not issue any investment permit authorizing the growing of cannabis in Ethiopia,” the head of the Investment Commission, Abebe Abebayehu followed on Twitter.  

The reaction of social media was quick and furious, with those arguing for the financial and health benefits of growing cannabis within Ethiopia.

“What needs to be looked at is the public health implications of legalized cannabis,” one argued on Twitter. “There is widespread khat consumption mix could have deleterious public health impact.”

“In Ethiopia, we can easily grow high quality cannabis. We have the best climate for it. And we can easily out compete our European or even Canadian growers. Transport will be the major cost. But our regulatory capacity will be the limiting factor,” another argued.

“Eco-friendly, agribusiness, export ready, high demand, cash crop. Unlike coffee it earns more and doesn’t take five years to mature. And unlike khat it earns more per gram and offers a wider market,” another added.

While Ethiopia is at a very stage of implementing anything similar to what Lesotho is experiencing currently, what is certain is the issue of growing cannabis, still a taboo in many areas of the country, is becoming a topic of conversation for many people within the nation, within government and outside.