Gauteng eyes cannabis processing to boost province's economy.
The Gauteng provincial government and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have requested interested parties to submit business partnership proposals as part of its new cannabis industrialisation plan.
In a request for information document gazetted on Friday (29 April), the department said it was looking to 'unlock economic opportunities and job creation' through the cultivation and processing of hemp and cannabis at an industrial scale in the province.
Some of the specific areas that are being considered include:
- Funding and capitalisation mechanism for cannabis/hemp cultivation, processing and distribution;
- Exchange, trading and aggregation platforms for domestic and export markets including certification and quality assurance partnership proposals;
- Aggregation schemes for cultivation and processing;
- Cannabis-driven carbon reduction and bioremediation program including rehabilitation of compromised mine lands.
Bioremediation is a process that uses mainly microorganisms, plants, or microbial or plant enzymes to detoxify contaminants in the soil and other environments. Scientific studies have shown that hemp/cannabis plants are particularly suited to this work.
For its part, the Gauteng provincial government is prepared to offer leases on state-owned land as well as tenancy in special economic zones to work on the project.
It has also proposed collaborative funding and potential partnerships with other government departments to help grow the local cannabis industry.
Gauteng premier David Makhura announced plans to establish the country's first cannabis hub in his state of the province address in February 2022. The proposal forms part of a R45 billion smart city development in the Vaal River area.
Makhura said that the cannabis hub will primarily focus on growing cannabis for medical use, and would not be sold recreationally.
He added that the Vaal River development will include a number of other features including:
- A green hydrogen innovation hub
- An aerotropolis and aerodrome
- A steel manufacturing sector
"All the four municipalities in the district have collectively made land available for this Special Economic Zone development. Notwithstanding some delays in the finalisation of the master plan, we are firmly on track to kickstart the revitalisation of the Sedibeng economy this year," he said.
The government has identified cannabis as a key economic differentiator for South Africa in the coming years.
In his February state of the nation address, president Cyril Ramaphosa said that his cabinet will fast-track regulations for the cannabis industry in South Africa, estimating that hemp and cannabis production can create as many as 130,000 new jobs for the country.
He added that these products, which have been farmed for numerous purposes in the past, will now be industrialised. "We want to harness this," the president said. "We are going to fast-track policy and regulations for the use of cannabis for medicinal use, especially in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal."