Photograph — Brett Levin

Having met the manufacturing standards of the EU, Lesotho’s MG Health has become the first African company to receive a licence to export medical cannabis to the EU.  The company can now export cannabis flower (bud), oil, and other extracts as active pharmaceutical ingredients. Its first export will be to Germany later in the year.  

This accreditation will increase visibility for the not so small company situated 2000 meters above sea level in the mountains of Lesotho and lead to more business with more countries within and outside the EU. The Guardian reports that the company has already received inquiries from the UK, France, and Australia.

The accreditation is also one of several firsts for the Kingdom of Lesotho and MG Health. Lesotho was the first country on the continent to grant an administrative license for the commercial cultivation of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes. MG Health is the first and only African company selected to supply medical cannabis to UK-based drugs advisory committee, Drug Science, for its medical cannabis-focused clinical research initiative, Project Twenty21. 

Currently, MG Health employs 250 people on its 5,000 square metre farm. But with this license to export to the EU, it plans to increase its workforce to 3,000. “We are sitting in a rural area where there is hardly any income. More business for the company will create a knock-on effect on the locals too because we also acquire some products and services from the villagers … An increase in the workforce means an increase in the villagers’ income, too,” said Andre Bothma, CEO, MG Health.

As more countries legalize cannabis consumption for medicinal and recreational purposes worldwide, the market for it is exploding, even into Africa, where consumption of the plant for medical or recreational purposes is banned almost everywhere. Spending on legal cannabis worldwide is expected to reach about $43 billion by 2024 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25 percent from 2019 and hit $57 billion by 2027.  In Europe alone, the demand for legal cannabis is expected to hit $37 billion by 2027. 

Seeing the projected growth and lucrative potential of the market, a number of African countries are legalising and relaxing laws on cannabis in order to tap into the market. Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Rwanda, and most recently Ghana, have all relaxed laws on the cultivation of cannabis. And with its favourable climate conditions, Africa is well positioned to cater to Europe’s growing cannabis market. The continent’s tropical weather and rich soil give it a competitive advantage against established powerhouses in the industry. Hence the growing interest of Western companies to set up farms and processing plants on the continent.

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