By Wallace Mawire
The Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) is aiming to be the first active Zimbabwean entity to join the AFCANN consortium to drive the African cannabis industry forward.
The institute on 6 April 2022 held the HIT/AFCANN hemp and cannabis symposium under the theme:unlocking the potential for cannabis and hemp in Zimbabwe through research,innovation and commercialisation.
According to HIT Vice Chancellor, Dr Engineer Quinton Chamunorwa Kanhukamwe, the AFCANN consortium aims to drive the African cannabis industry forward hence the need to bring Zimbabwean players together to dialogue at the symposium.
Delegates were drawn from other countries like South African and India to give their perspectives on the cannabis industry in their countries.HIT is a public university in Zimbabwe whose mandate is to develop,incubate,commercialise and transfer technology to the different sectors of the economy in the country.
The institute’s school of Allied Health Sciences and the school of Industrial Sciences and Technolofy represented by the Departments of Pharmaceutical Technology and Biotechnology have initiated the institutional drive towards cannabis cultivation and value addition.
According to the Vice Chancellor,the initiative has culminated in a collaborative effort with partners from Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa and Buffalo Extractions in USA to organise the symposium which brought together academics,policymakers,funding bodies and cannabis advocates under one roof.
He said that the initiative aims to unlock the billion dollar value chains for the country to achieve its vision of an upper middle income economic status by 2030.
The Vice Chancellor said that Zimbabwe aims to derive economic value from the local cannabis industry as one of the main thrusts driving its economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).This is also reported to be in line with Vision 2030 promulgated by the government.
The Vice Chancellor added that the role of universities under the framework is to act as catalysts for rapid industrialisation through provision of platforms for technological development and transfer to various sectors of the economy.
He emphasised the need for strong linkages with industry partners from across the country and the African continent and the world at large.
The global cannabis market is expected to grow by 28% year on year from 2022 to 2027 to reach a value of $118,9 billion.
It is also reported that for Zimbabwe and Africa to benefit from the growth,concerted efforts must be made to develop strategic linkages between academia and industry.
Also globally,it is reported that owing to the medicinal properties of cannabis,there is increasing legalization of cannabis which is also stimulating the growth of the industry in Zimbabwe.
The government of Zimbabwe legalised the production of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes through Statutory Instrument (SI) 62 of 2018,production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific use regulations and through which producers must be licensed by the ministry of Health and Child Care.
It is also reported that since then,the government has approved over 57 investors who have expressed interest in producing cannabis for scientific and medicinal purposes.
It is also envisaged that as more medicinal applications gain international recognition,the drive and market for the product will increase.
It is also expected that affordable medicines will be produced locally for domestic and export markets.
It is also added that against a background of a declining tobacco market due to the increasing anti-smoking campaigns and with the available incentives and support from government,Zimbabwe and other African countries can tap into the growing global cannabis market and unlock real economic value.
It is also reported that with its hospitable climate and agricultural traditions, Southern Africa can become a global hub in the growing and processing of medical cannabis and industrial hemp.It is however, said that the right kind of policies and strategic investments need to be in place for the industry to thrive.