Despite being an illegal commodity in Nigeria, an estimated 20.8 million people consume cannabis every year, in a market estimated at $15.3 billion in two new reports, by New Frontier Data, an organization that says it is providing transparency into the cannabis industry via unbiased vetted data & analytics reporting.
According to the Global Cannabis Report and the Africa Hemp and Cannabis Report, both giving 2019 Industry Outlooks, exclusively made available to BusinessDay, Nigeria has the highest rate of cannabis use in the world. The reports indicate 19.4 per cent of Nigeria’s population over the age of 15 consumed cannabis in the past year, and at least 12 per cent consume it monthly. This is significant, given the illegal status of the plant across most of Africa, and the fact that higher reported rates of use are typically associated with progressive cannabis laws.
Current cannabis usage rates (i.e., the reported percentage of adults in the population that consume cannabis) were estimated from various year rates sourced from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). For the countries where usage data was unavailable, a regional average rate was applied based on the population-weighted average usage rate for the countries within the region for which usage rates were available.
At number one position, Nigeria with 19.4 percent of its population using Cannabis is followed by Canada with 15.8 per cent, and in third position, the United States with 15 percent. Total demand for cannabis in Africa, according to the reports is estimated at $37 billion USD. The lion’s share of the regional demand ($15.3 billion) is in Nigeria, which is the continent’s most populous country with the world’s highest cannabis usage rate, followed by Ethiopia ($9.8 billion), and Morocco ($3.5 billion). Almost the entirety of the region’s demand is currently met through the illicit market, but according to the report, attitudes are shifting towards legalization, making Africa a target for early-mover investors.
“Three of the world’s top 10 cannabis-consuming nations are in Africa, highlighting both the importance of cannabis reform and related business opportunities throughout the region,” said Giadha Aguirre de Carcer, CEO and Founder, New Frontier Data, in an earlier email to BusinessDay.
The African report covers only 13 African nations; Lesotho, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Eswatini, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Morocco, and Kenya, which encompass more than 565.4 million people, and across which nearly 42.8 million are estimated to use cannabis at least annually.
The Africa Regional report states Cannabis is widely cultivated among Nigerian farmers because it generates more revenue and grows more quickly than other major crops, like cocoa. If Nigerian policymakers opt to establish a legal and regulated cannabis market, the regulations should include entry to the regulated market for those currently cultivating cannabis illicitly, it says. Many farmers who grow cannabis in Nigeria do so out of economic necessity, and are in the most urgent need of the benefits to be attained by legalization. As current growers, they would be positioned to immediately begin supplying a legal industry. Inclusion of those growers would also help limit the continuation of an illicit market, and reduce the influence of cartels, stated the report.