Until sometime recently, using PayPal in Zimbabwe was a pain. See, the company considered Zimbabwe a sanctioned country and as such denied access to its platform to anyone connecting from a Zimbabwean internet connection. They’d use the IP address to check this. Users would get the following message:
Error 3028: You have accessed your account from a sanctioned country. Per international sanctions regulations, you are not authorized to access the PayPal system, For more information about your PayPal account status, contact email@example.com.
The sanctions in question were apparently those related to the United States “targeted” sanctions against certain individuals in Zimbabwe which have been in force for several years now. Needless to say, there’s nothing “targeted” about this particular restriction. In this case, anyone in Zimbabwe including those just visiting, were ‘targeted’ by PayPal.
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So, you had people coming up with all kinds of innovative ways to get around this nonsense. Some would use VSAT connections as the VSAT technology is not border aware. Some users and merchants just went to PayPal’s competitors. And some local companies, instead of just complaining, took this as an opportunity to build their own PayPal, which is just great!
A couple of weeks ago, a friend pointed us to the fact that PayPal had relaxed the location based restrictions. User of the platform can now access PayPal and make payments and other transactions from Zimbabwe. We tested it ourselves here and indeed we could create an account, check the balance and other such simple processes.
The issues though is that PayPal still doesn’t consider individuals and businesses with Zimbabwean physical addresses eligible to have PayPal accounts. You have to use a non-Zim physical addresses to register an account. Your cousin’s South African or Botswana address maybe? Crazy still hey.
We are not sure what caused the slight relaxation of the rules here. We contacted PayPal at least twice to get more information and we did not receive a response. Some information we have however suggests that the US Embassy in Zimbabwe communicated with PayPal and told them to stop with the overzealousness. That they were needlessly adding fuel to the “sanctions are not targeted” mantra by not letting ordinary Zimbabwean companies and individuals use the service.