Economist estimates that the global legal marijuana market will reach $146 billion by the end of 2025. Photo: AP

JOHANNESBURG – Lesotho has emerged as an unlikely hotspot for global cannabis companies, according to a Cape Town-based economist.

Jee-A van der Linde, an economist at NKC African Economics, said the kingdom was beaming with potential and looked to become Africa’s staging ground for medical marijuana businesses with its friendly policy environment. 

"While the formal cannabis industry is arguably still in its infancy, the kingdom could unlock even more foreign investment over the next few years. This, in turn, could lead to more job creation for Basotho workers, assist in diversifying the economy and possibly see Lesotho emerge as a leading player on the global cannabis scene," said Van der Linde. 

In 2017, Lesotho became the first African nation to legalise the growth of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes, followed by Zimbabwe earlier this year. South Africa later in the year joined the bandwagon with a landmark Constitutional Court ruling giving the green light to private cannabis use among adults.

The tiny Kingdom’s economy is currently reliant on South Africa with water and diamonds the country’s biggest exports.

Van der Linde estimated that the global legal marijuana market to reach $146 billion (about R2.1 trillion) by the end of 2025.