Three reasons why PayPal won’t work in Zimbabwe



As Zimbabweans we have been a deprived lot. If it is not one nation introducing Visas so that we can’t visit them, then it is another banning the use of our ETDs (Emergency Travel Documents) when going to visit. Our misfortunes have also been prominent online. Facebook did not allow us to advertise to followers in Zimbabwe even though we had over 1 million followers using their service, Twitter and LinkedIn still don’t. Then there is the Blackberry and BIS/BBM issue. Many cried and wimped as to why the gods of IT frowned upon us and kept such highly necessary services from us.

Then there was the PayPal saga. First NOBODY could access the website from a Zimbabwe IP address, then they opened up (but only just) allowing users with accounts/credit cards linked from other countries to access their services from here. There were allegations of sanctions and all kinds of unprintable words that were thrown at the online payments gateway for keeping us in the dark (errrr, ok, that’s ZESA’s fault, but you get what I mean).


Well alas, as of yesterday, Tuesday 17 June 2014, PayPal is now open to Zimbabwean users who can now not only access the website from these shores, but also open an account and LINK their credit cards to their accounts and make online payments! No more work-arounds needed. Here’s how. Hooray! (or is it?!?)

While we were left all out in the cold by the powers that be at PayPal, we have managed to build our own thriving payments systems that are relevant here in Zimbabwe. We have EcoCash, Telecash, OneWallet, vPayments, Textacash, CellCard (no link on their website, but that’s another article all together), Pay4App, Pay Now and soon Pay Wallet. The bulk of these solutions are mobile payments, as it was something that the banks took long to realise and latch on to thus leaving an open playing field.

Here are three of the top reasons why you shouldn’t be popping the champagne just yet.

1.One of the critical aspects of PayPal is that you need to connect/link your bank card, whether debit or credit to your account. Here enters your first challenge: Everybody in Zimbabwe DOES NOT have a credit card! Ask the banks. This is the main reason that all of our mobile money solutions have sprouted here in the motherland. With one needing to have a bank account (with the exception of FBC’s prepaid MasterCard) in order to get a Bank Card, the chances of this service being adopted by the layman on the streets is very low.

2. The current legislation that is tied to PayPal require them to collect a host of information on the transactor, something that your mobile wallet does not collect at the time of registration. For this reason, we will NOT be seeing any EcoCash to PayPal transfers. As the bulk of our payments (debatedly) are run through mobile wallets this is a shortcoming that will affect a number of would be sellers of products to Zimbabweans.

3.The current setup of PayPal accounts for Zimbabweans is for PAYMENTS ONLY. We cannot have our citizens buying products and services from us here as we do not have the ability to open a merchant account. Something vPayments already allows. If your product or service targets locals that are based here, then nicely start putting those glasses away and put that bottle back on ice.

As Zimbabwe is a cash economy, people are living literally from hand to mouth, thus equating to very little opportunity for people to bank their monies. As there is a ‘claimed’ 85% unemployment rate (I’d rather say that 85% are NOT FORMALLY employed), the bulk of the country’s citizens receive their money through non-banking channels. Ask Econet.  Added to this are the high bank charges that you have to pay for the bank to ‘spin your money’, oops, I mean safe guard it for you, and to a person who is earning very little, every cent counts. Then there’s the trust issue over the banks ‘stealing’ our money in the cross over to dollarisation.

With not many people using bank cards, my assessment is that the solution will not pick up as quick as Telecash’s API launch and EcoCash’s soon to be announced.

As an entrepreneur, startup or developer, what’s so exciting about PayPal’s entry into Zimbabwe? How do you think users here can benefit from it? ZimAsset anyone?

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