Cannabis, a potential boost for Western Cape economy

The Western Cape government welcome the economic boost of cannabis in the province. Picture: DAVID MCNEW

The Western Cape government welcome the economic boost of cannabis in the province. Picture: DAVID MCNEW

Published Apr 1, 2023


There are fruitful and positive entrepreneurship prospects for the Western Cape as the cannabis sector promises to inject bountifully into the Western Cape economy.

Last week Afriplex, a manufacturing company in Paarl, which is rooted in development and manufacturing of botanical medicines, food and beverages, announced that it has developed a new innovative technology that is able to extract cannabidiol (CBD), a first for South Africa.

Danie JC Nel, the director of Afriplex said that Afriplex in collaboration with the Cannabis Research Institute of South Africa came together to develop this technology.

“It is an extraction process combining solvent extraction, vacuum evaporation, dewaxing, fractionation and chromatographic separation to isolate various cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD),” he said.

Nel said that this technology would benefit the province by providing substantial employment and giving it an economic boost.

“Afriplex is part of the Impilovest Group, covering the full cannabis value chain from cultivation, to processing and finalising finished products for export. It therefore impacts on creating employment in all the activities in the value chain. We expect at least 500 additional job opportunities within the Western Cape within the next five years.

“This could obviously be more if we succeed in getting the government to create a conducive environment for conducting businesses with international customers. The Impilovest shareholders plan to invest more than R350 million in the Western Cape within the next five years. The existing cannabis growing facilities, the processing facility at Afriplex and clinical studies for chronic pain relief are all part of this.

“We plan to establish a processing facility in Canada to produce another cannabinoid (CBG) , a similar facility as Afriplex in the Vaal SEZ (Special Economic Zone) and investment in technology for a new dosage form (WC). We are also actively involved in the development of technology to produce automotive parts from hemp fibre,” he said.

Nel said that the government is controlling the regulatory environment and has the keys to unlocking such opportunities.

“We are involved with a job creation fund valued at more than R100 million, all dependent on government approval. This fund will create more than 500 new jobs within a three year period nationally. This is over and above the 500 additional jobs planned by Impilovest,” he said.

Silas Howarth, the organiser and director of the Cannabis Expo, that took place last week in Cape Town, said that there is so much excitement around the local cannabis industry.

“This is because of the huge potential we have as a region for producing quality cannabis and cannabis products at an affordable price, to supply an ever-growing local and international demand. The global industry is taking note and we saw a large increase in attending international delegates at the Cape Town expo, networking and concluding deals with South African and Southern African cannabis entrepreneurs and businesses,” he said.

Howarth said last week's Cannabis Expo was the biggest they have had yet, in which African cannabis business opportunities were discussed. He said next year’s expo will focus on attracting even more international exhibitors, and delegates to help continue the rapid growth of the Western Cape.

Premier Alan Winde supports all efforts to boost employment and investment in the Western Cape.

“The incipient cannabis industry offers us opportunities to further diversify our economy and skills development. This sector has massive potential for SMMEs, which we should harness. The province’s agriculture sector, generally, remains among our most robust and resilient industries. Therefore, incorporating cannabis into our fertile agricultural fold is being considered,” he said.

MEC for agriculture, Ivan Meyer said the department’s Cannabis Framework and Implementation Plan (CanPlan) will be launched this week.

“The CanPlan provides guidelines for establishing cannabis (medicinal cannabis) and hemp crops in the Western Cape. Our view is that the development, growth and success of the cannabis industry requires a value chain approach to ensure that the Western Cape benefits from this booming industry.

“The industry has the potential to absorb all skill levels, including low, semi, and skilled labour. Tapping into this will contribute to growing our rural economy and creating jobs,” he said.