CAPE TOWN: Lesotho start-up MG Health has become the first African cannabis-grower to win European Union permission to export cannabis flower for medicinal use: which can range from relieving chronic pain to treating spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.
Lesotho has helped pioneer the nascent legal cannabis sector in Africa which could be worth more than US$7.1 billion annually by 2023 if new laws are introduced, the African Cannabis Report said two years ago.
Launched in 2017, MG Health has its cultivation and modern processing facilities at a secluded location some 2,000 metres above sea-level in mountainous Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by South Africa.
MG Health chief executive Andre Bothma said the firm had received certification to export cannabis flower as an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) under the EU's Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) protocol.
"What this means is that we have authorisation to export our products as an API into Germany and the wider European market. We expect to start in June," he said on the sidelines of a media event with his Munich-based import partner, Drapalin Pharmaceuticals.
Besides the EU and Germany, Bothma said they also planned to enter the UK and Australian markets.
A growing number of countries around the world are either legalising or relaxing laws on cannabis as attitudes towards the drug change. They include several in Africa, such as South Africa, Rwanda, Morocco and Malawi.
MG Health currently produces around 250kg of packed cannabis flower a month on a pilot-scale production footprint of 5000 square meters. As soon as exports start, another 10,000 m2 of greenhouse space will be added, officials said.
"Our contract is for a minimum of two tonnes for the first year," Bothma said.