Image copyright AFP Image caption Mike Tyson is promoting the launch of Malawi’s flag carrier
Malawi has defended its decision to invite Mike Tyson to promote a government cannabis programme.
Malawi is the latest nation to give the go-ahead for medicinal cannabis oil.
The former boxing champion was asked to promote the programme at a ceremony in Blantyre on Thursday as the country’s flag carrier.
Malawi’s health minister told the BBC he wants the former Tyson to become a role model for his country’s children.
We are supporting the government on this. We don’t think it’s in bad taste, we think it’s quite appropriate
“Tyson is one of the people our young people in Malawi can look up to,” said health minister Jenson Chilimba.
“We can look for other people who have done well, good, special and prominent – he is one of them.
“We want Malawi to be the land of kings but some people in the countryside don’t know their leaders, some people don’t know the power of the man that they are naming their flag carrier.”
Tyson has expressed his support for the program’s cause.
Chilimba said Malawi, known as a former copper mining country, has also enlisted the help of South African Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu and Grammy Award-winning rapper Nicki Minaj in the health programme.
“We are supporting the government on this. We don’t think it’s in bad taste, we think it’s quite appropriate. Our people seem to like it,” Chilimba said.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Actor Alfre Woodard also spoke at the ceremony as Malawi’s flag carrier
Men have used marijuana for medicinal purposes for centuries, with Huye, the country’s “Golden City”, named for the market of cloth woven from the drug.
Farmers in the area use marijuana as a natural insecticide and to treat worm infestations.
Men smoke it as a painkiller and massage after drinking it.
The EU is hoping to cash in by selling medicinal cannabis to African nations.
While there are apparently no legal impediments to selling cannabis in the EU, which allows medical and scientific research, the law still regards it as illegal and forbidding commerce.
India and Israel, the US and Canada have also looked into making medicinal cannabis available, but most have failed, reportedly because of laws that ban cannabis.
Malawi’s medical cannabis programme will allow access to cannabis oil for sick children.