By Maniraguha Ferdinand
In early October 2020, Rwanda made a surprise announcement that it has already approved regulatory guidelines on cultivation, processing and export of high value therapeutic crops which includes cannabis.
The surprise is against Rwanda’s long stand on the use of cannabis, where existing laws punish bitterly anyone who gets caught producing, selling, trafficking or consuming cannabis. Anyone convicted can get over 20 year jail sentence.
Rwanda explained that the approval of cannabis cultivation is mainly for export and it will be used in medicinal research and medicinal industries, however economic profits are also the target.
Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer for Rwanda Development Board recently told the national broadcaster that, there is a huge economic profit from growing cannabis for export.
“If you look at the revenues we expect to get from some of these crops that might be licensed, you can get up USD 10 million from one hectare, if you compare that to flowers for example, if you grow flowers on hectare, you expect to get USD 300 000, it is a huge difference” she said.
She said that many countries around the world are gradually allowing medicinal cultivation of these crops to support medical research and economy, chances that Rwanda does not want to miss.
The global market for medical cannabis is currently estimated at $150 billion and could reach $272 billion in 2028, according to Barclays Bank.
Rwanda is one of developing countries whose economy mainly relies on agriculture and tourism.
Akamanzi said that Rwanda wants to raise its economic revenues by amassing these new opportunities.
“It is also one that can bring income and revenue to the country, can create jobs, it is very timely. Rwanda doesn’t want to miss this important growing, useful industry”, she said.
Though cultivation has been approved, she added that there will be tight control and security around the growing of cannabis in Rwanda to avoid any leakage to local market.
Any investor who will be permitted to grow such crops, must present security guidelines which will be approved by local security organs.
“Not only are we regulating how you import the materials for planting whether it is seed or others, we are regulating how you cultivate these crops, how you handle post-harvesting, how you ensure quality of products, temperature , storage, waste disposal, all that is part of the regulatory framework” Akamanzi assured
“You will be required to have a very strong security program that has to be approved by our security organs. That security program is going to be highly implemented. There will be no way that it can leak out of the farm to go to the domestic market or for wrong users”, she added
To ensure cannabis farm security, investors will be asked to have CCTV Cameras, watch towers, street lights, human security among others.
Akamanzi said that they are discussing with potential investors who showed interests into the business, but they first have to pass through tight screening to be licensed.
Rwanda National Police announced that as long as the law prohibits the illegal growing, consumption or selling drugs including cannabis, the culprits will be arrested.
“The existing laws must be respected, if there come changes people will follow new ones”, Commissioner of Police, John Bosco Kabera told local media.
It is not clear where cannabis will be grown so that it will never go on local market as Rwanda is one of densely populated countries around the world.
Rwanda joins other African countries that have already legalized cannabis including South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Uganda among others.