Cape Town - THE Western Cape could be the future cannabis hub of Africa.

Cannabis experts, entrepreneurs and investors gathered this week at the CannaTech international conference, held on African soil for the first time.

CannaTech founder and chief executive of iCAN Israel, Saul Kaye, said South Africa was one of just six countries in the world that were active in the cannabis industry - and could be poised to seize a massive opportunity.

Half of all the attendees at the CannaTech conference were potential investors from outside South Africa.

“They’ve come to see what the opportunity is here - not how can we take this elsewhere, which I think is very special,” he said.

One of the most attractive aspects to foreign investors was this country’s wealth of indigenous knowledge around cannabis.

“What’s unique in Africa is your land-races, your genetics that have grown here for thousands of years, your traditional agricultural methods and traditional healing methods. We in Europe don't know that science,” Kaye said.

“Your indigenous science around cannabis is incredibly attractive. Your agricultural history of growing cannabis, your low-cost production, your rapid evolvement of regulating the industry is very attractive.”

South Africa could be poised to snap up a sizeable portion of the growing international market, if it is able to regulate and legalise the industry in time. In terms of most attractive cannabis investment destinations in the world, Kaye said there was a shortlist.

“Canada is first, California and Colorado (the US) second, and then you’ve got Australia, Israel and southern Africa, maybe Colombia. That’s it, in the world,” he said.

“There’s five or six active countries. You’re the first active on the continent, other than Lesotho, which has other problems.”

While Kaye said South Africa was still in the very early stages of entering the industry, it was on a rapid track towards legalisation.

“The goal should be to move it from the black market to the legal market, driving revenues to taxable revenues,” he said. “You've got local growers, you've got mass consumption as far as I can see, and you've got a population that can support it.”

Wesgro chief executive Tim Harris told potential investors at the conference that the Western Cape in particular was perfectly positioned to drive the cannabis industry boom.

With the province already producing half of South Africa’s agricultural export, it has the farming expertise and infrastructure needed to be a production hub for cannabis as well as a high-end scientific base for laboratory analysis and processing.

“We are incredibly well-positioned to service the needs of an investor, or a producer, a grower or processor in the cannabis space,” Harris said.

Since the beginning of the year, Wesgro had been facilitating meetings between potential investors and local administration, he said.

Weekend Argus