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 Search
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    Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy is an established research expert on humanitarian and development policy, conflict, security and evidence uptake, and has research experience in 13 countries.

    Previously, she was a Senior Research Fellow with the Politics and Governance team and a Research Fellow with the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). At ODI, she also launched and co-led ODI-MED, a cross-institutional initiative on peace and sustainability in the Mediterranean region. Earlier in her career, she led research on regional philanthropy and civic engagement at the Gerhart Center, the American University in Cairo.

    Sherine is a social scientist working at the intersection between academia, policy and practice. Her work broadly focuses on two areas: the politics of the interface between the multilateral system and local agency (including thematic areas such as localisation of aid, decolonization, nexus approaches, gender and social inclusivity), and configurations of power in state-society relations in conflict-affected and fragile contexts (including thematic areas such as state building, youth civic engagement, governance, economic growth). A common thread in her research is the need for a nuanced and historically sensitive understanding of indigenous voice and agency.

    She has advised governments, donors and civil society organizations on their engagement in conflict-affected and fragile contexts including Oxfam, UNDP, UNWomen, UNICEF, the Atlantic Council and Transparency International among others.

    Sherine was a Politics Visiting Fellow at Keble College, University of Oxford, and a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’. She has published articles in key academic and policy journals and outlets. These include 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.

    She has been featured in key international media outlets such as Al Jazeera, the BBC, Thomson Reuters, and the Guardian. Sherine holds a doctorate from the Department of International Development and St. Cross College, 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.