By Staff Writers

His Majesty King Letsie III on Friday joined investors to officially open another new cannabis processing facility in a lavish ceremony.

Local business mogul Sam Matekane who is also the King’s friend has teamed up with British investors to open Verve Lesotho cannabis processing facility as Lesotho seeks to be at the forefront of African nations in exploring business opportunities for cannabis.

The company’s founders claim the extraction plant will produce more cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis extract which some say has extraordinary healing powers, than any other facility in the southern hemisphere.

Matekane teamed up with Brits Richard Davies and Joe Simon to set up the venture. “We are poised to become one of the lowest cost producers of medical cannabis extracts in the world,” said Matekane.

He said he hopes that the Verve partnership will boost development in Lesotho.

“Lesotho was the first country to issue cannabis licenses in Africa and this partnership with CannInvest will ensure that we will also be the first to market our purified extracts globally,” he said, “thus, enabling our people to work towards a financially sustainable country for all.”

In May 2018, Aphria, a Canadian cannabis firm, announced that it entered into a series of agreements resulting in it forming a joint venture, Cann Invest Africa Ltd, with South African company, Verve Group of Companies.

As part of this transaction valued at over US$4 million (M56 million) Cann Invest acquired a stake in Verve Dynamics, a licensed producer of medical cannabis extracts in Lesotho. Cann Invest’s partner in Verve is Matekane Group of Companies (MGC).

Simon, a Chelsea-based film producer who became the first investor in the venture, said he was convinced of CBD’s health benefits.

“When Richard first called to tell me we’ve been offered an opportunity to open factory to produce CBD oil in Lesotho, to be honest, I didn’t have a clue what that was,” he said.

“I rang my grandmother and asked her about it: She told me ‘Joey, I’ve been taking it for years, it has helped my arthritis and I threw away my prescription meds’. So I googled it and asked around and rang Richard back and said: ‘Yes, I’m in.’”  

Matekane and his two business partners say their investment will contribute to a rapidly growing industry with the potential to create hundreds of jobs for cannabis farmers and seedling producers, chemists, and office workers.

Matekane has built a school at Mantšonyane in Thaba-Tseka.

Lesotho, which long been home to an illicit cannabis farming industry, is one of the first African countries to cash in on the growing craze for “medicinal” CBD, an extract sold in crystal or oil form that has been touted as a cure all for everything from anxiety to epilepsy.  

The extract is also sold in moisturizers, tongue drops, and food supplements. CBD infused tampons have even been marketed as a solution to period pain.

Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe have all made shifts toward embracing the cannabis industry.

Although the African continent remains a newly emerging market for the industry, Lesotho is ready to become a global cultivation and processing hub, according to “The African Cannabis Report” published in March by trade analysts at Prohibition Partners.

“The high-altitude mountainous region has an abundant water source (especially for those who can drill) as well as rich, fertile soil making it an ideal region for cultivation,” the report said.

It added that: “As an extremely poor region poised for growth within the cannabis market, Lesotho is already seeing an influx of foreign investment.”

The value of Africa’s legal cannabis market could be worth over US$7.1 billion by 2023, the report said. That’s based on nine countries including Lesotho detailed in the report.

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