A presidential hopeful in Kenya is running on a cannabis and snake venom platform

The cannabis-and-snake-venom platform is alive and well in Kenya.
The cannabis-and-snake-venom platform is alive and well in Kenya.
Image: Reuters / Amir Cohen
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Kenya is facing inflation, unemployment and public debt. But George Wajackoyah, one of the four presidential candidates in the Aug. 9 polls, wants to get the economy back on track by legalizing cannabis and farming snakes.

His rivals—former prime minister Raila Odinga and deputy president William Ruto—promise a $60 monthly stipend for unemployed citizens and several economic reforms. Meanwhile, on Twitter, TikTok and Whatsapp, Wajackoyah, a trained lawyer, figures that since a sack of 90 kilos of raw cannabis is worth $3.4 million, Kenya needs fewer than 2,000 sacks to repay its foreign debts. 

Wajackoyah and his running mate Justina Wamae plan to legalize the farming of hemp, a form of cannabis with high levels of cannabidoil (CBD), so that its fibre can be used in industry and its CBD in medicines. In parallel, they want to legalize and control the use of marijuana, the form of cannabis popular as a recreational drug. To ensure that only hemp is grown in Kenya, Wamae has explained, agricultural officials will visit farms to test crops, and hemp seeds will be provided only by the government.

A 2019 report by Prohibition Partners that surveyed nine African countries calculated that Africa’s legal cannabis industry will grow to $7.1 billion by 2023. Wajackoyah wants Kenya to take advantage of this growing market, estimated globally to be worth around $70 billion by 2028. “Kenyans will be so rich that they will only be working four days a week,” Wackajoyah said on Citizen TV.

Wajackoyah thinks Kenya should tap the snake venom market too

Wajackoyah also wants Kenya to take up snake farming on an industrial scale. Snake venom, used in the manufacture of drugs and to treat snake bites, can earn as much as $120 per gram. “Proceeds from the sale of snake poison (sic) alone are enough to repay our Chinese loans,” Wajackoyah claimed to a local TV station. The global market for anti-venom drugs, made out of snake venom, is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2027.

However wild Wajackoyah’s schemes sound, he could still prove to be a spoiler in the presidential race, said Herman Manyora, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Nairobi. The cannabis narrative has brought Wajackoyah such wide renown that he may trip up the chances of either Raila or Ruto to garner the requisite 50% plus one vote that they need to win. “I won’t be surprised if he causes a re-run in August,” Manyora said. “The marijuana mantra is pulling crowds and that could attract undecided voters.”