Cannabis and livelihoods in Africa: risk or opportunity?

This discussion was chaired by Ini Dele-Adedeji from NatCen International.
  • Event time:
    13th July 2022 12:00 GMT Standard Time – 13:00 GMT Standard Time
  • Format:

Cannabis-linked livelihoods have been undermined by official laws and policies for generations in Africa. While cannabis remains criminalized in most African countries, in some there have been growing changes in official perceptions on the substance following the emergence of a lucrative global legal cannabis market led by countries such as Canada.

A number of African countries historically involved in persecuting their citizens for engaging in cannabis-linked livelihoods have now begun changing their policies to allow production of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. However, the new policies are narrowly framed in a way that perpetuates continued illegality and criminalization of the activities of many smallholders and traders. Consequently, in terms of regulation, the experiences of smallholder producers/traders have not changed much across the continent – including in the reforming countries. This is because, where policy changes have taken place, there is limited participation of smallholders in the emerging legal cannabis industry – a development that creates the risk of corporate capture of the industry.

What has been the impact of Cannabis criminalisation legislations on livelihoods in various parts of Africa? What are the implications of the policy changes for the livelihoods of ordinary citizens who engage in cannabis? In what ways can the reforms ensure broad-based agrarian transformation?

This discussion was chaired by Ini Dele-Adedeji from NatCen International. At this event, Sherine El-Taraboulsi McCarthy, Director of NatCen International, provided introductory remarks.


  • Sherine El Taraboulsi–McCarthy
    Director, NatCen International National Centre for Social Research
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    Sherine is the Director of NatCen International where she leads a team of senior experts and researchers dedicated to shaping global social policy and practice. She is widely acknowledged as an expert in humanitarian and development policy, conflict, security and evidence uptake with a focus on the UK, Africa and the Middle East. Sherine has two decades of experience in leading and delivering on complex research projects and consortia as well as providing policy advice at a senior level to governments, donors and civil society organizations on their engagement in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. 

    Prior to establishing NatCen International, Sherine was a Senior Research Fellow at ODI where she launched and co-led a cross-institutional initiative on peace and sustainability in the Mediterranean region. Earlier in her career, she set up a research unit on regional philanthropy and civic engagement at the American University in Cairo. Sherine has held fellowships at Keble College at the University of Oxford, the Department of Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ and the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies in Saudi Arabia. She has also been a guest lecturer at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and Cranfield University in England as well as the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar. Her work can be found in the International Review of the Red Cross, the Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of the Middle East, Development in Practice as well as book chapters in edited volumes with Palgrave Macmillan and James Currey. Sherine sits on the Board of Trustees of Protection Approaches, a UK charity dedicated to combatting identity-based violence in the UK and globally.

    Sherine holds a DPhil from the Department of International Development and St. Cross College at the University of Oxford.

  • Gernot Klantschnig
    Associate Professor International Criminology at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol
  • Clemence Rusenga
    Research Associate University of Bristol
  • Research Fellow Max Gallien
    Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
  • Simon Howell
    Research fellow University of Capetown.