The cannabis market is booming and Gauteng wants in

Gauteng's head of agriculture and rural development, Matilda Gasela, said that unless aggressive investment is made in health growth sectors such as cannabis, our economy is doomed. That is why Gauteng wants to grab the opportunity and help more growers get started

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The cannabis market is booming and the Gauteng government wants more of its farmers to get a piece of the pie. The province already has its aims on finding investors and helping growers in especially townships to set up their farms.

Speaking at a webinar called “Unlocking the Gauteng Cannabis Economy” last week, Dr Tshilidzi Ratshitanga made it clear that the province wants to grab the opportunity to use cannabis to drive economic transformation and to create employment.

Ratshitanga is deputy chairman of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) and chairman of the Innovation Hub Management Company and was speaking on behalf of Gauteng’s MEC for economic development, environment, agriculture and rural development, Parks Tau.

He said the introduction of a licensing framework for the cultivation and manufacturing of medical cannabis, and hemp industrialisation, will open new investment opportunities in Gauteng and South Africa at large.

The province now plans to attract investors and to supply certified seeds and other start-up production inputs to new small-scale farmers.

It is also “mobilising financial resources with the objective of capitalising the development and industrialisation of cannabis”, which could include grants, loans and blended finance, depending on where in the value chain the recipient works.

ALSO READ: Gauteng growers lead the way in cannabis licence rush

‘A perfect fit for Gauteng’s economic vision’

Ratshitanga said the strategic goals of the Growing Gauteng Together plan for 2030 included driving economic transformation, particularly in townships. “Hence we have the township economic revitalisation strategy: creating employment for all classes of disadvantaged citizens and coordinating industrialisation initiatives so that they are geared towards products and services required by the 10 high-growth sectors and are thus sustainably financeable.”

Speaking on cannabis:
Dr Tshilidzi Ratshitanga, deputy chairman of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA). Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
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The transformation intent is societal and economic.

“We aim to transform the economy to become more inclusive by creating a more harmonious society. We also aim to transform the economy through innovation and modernisation. The current state of the cannabis industry in South Africa requires innovation and modernisation at an industrial scale, [which is] why it perfectly fits the Gauteng government’s intent of transformation, modernisation and reindustrialisation of our economy and province at large.”

With a targeted commitment to inclusivity and competitiveness, the province will aim to attract “significant investor interest” based on “our strategic location and competitive advantages such as academic and research institutions, public infrastructure, the biopharmaceutical and agro-processing sectors, but also through leveraging our intentions of investing in the transformation, modernisation and reindustrialisation of Gauteng,” said Ratshitanga.

He further said the province’s cannabis masterplan proposes that government supplies certified seeds and other start-up production inputs to new small-scale farmers, led by the department if science and innovation. The master plan also focuses on producing new cultivars and strains of cannabis to support a wide range of production, including cannabis used for food, medicine, beverages, textiles, construction materials and cosmetics.

“The cannabis masterplan also places great importance on the establishment of a sustainable seed supply system which will require all companies involved with the breeding, multiplication and scale of cannabis seeds to be registered and certified,” he added.

‘A way to save the economy’

Matilda Gasela, head of the department of agriculture and rural development in Gauteng, warned that the South African economy is under pressure and that we could suffer years of local uncertainty if we don’t take advantage of the booming cannabis industry.

Matilda Gasela, the head of department: agriculture and rural development
Matilda Gasela, head of the department if agriculture and rural development in Gauteng. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“As we all know, with the ever-present threat of further economic downgrades, the triple challenge of high unemployment, increasing poverty levels, rising inequality figures and a shrinking GDP, the risk of further damage remains high as Covid-19 continues to affect economic activity and trade worldwide.

“Following an already weak economy prior to the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly likely that global and local economies could suffer years of local uncertainty as the impact of Covid-19 has already pushed global GDP growth to the slowest pace since the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.”

Gasela said that unless aggressive investment is made in health growth sectors such as cannabis, our economy is doomed.

“The industrialisation of cannabis certainly has the great potential of creating job opportunities, of growing the economy and of also promoting township SMME development and inclusive participation,” she said. “We should engage with the broader industry in our endeavour to contribute to the growth of this industry as success and impact can be derived from having partnerships more than working alone.”

ALSO READ: ‘Advance cannabis regulatory framework to boost agri in 2021’

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