PayPal (not) in Africa


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Collins Mbalo, resident blogger at A Nairobian's Perspective, complains about the lack of access to PayPal services in Kenya and Africa generally. While anyone can set up a PayPal account, Africans have no way to transfer this money into a bank account. PayPal has a list of the services it provides in countries around the world here.

It looks like there's not a single country in Africa under the "Send. Receive. Withdraw" heading. At best, residents in Africa only have access to the 'send' function. Africans don't even have access to a functionality that allows users in some countries to withdraw funds to a debit card. I'm not sure why this is the case, but at least in South Africa it looks like the tax authorities are afraid they're going to miss out on tax revenues. You can read more speculations about why this is the case on the blog of an African internet entrpreneur.

The lack of any effective way to facilitate e-commerce obviously places a serious constraing on the development of online markets. However, Mbalo thinks that PayPal is missing out on an opportunity:

I believe that maybe Paypal does not recognize the potential and opportunities available in Africa and it is time we trumpeted this cause...Due to its inadequate presence in hinterland Africa, the E-Commerce provider is losing out on massive profits which it could rake in due to emerging robust markets in Africa."

What would it take to get PayPal to expand into African markets? 

July 03, 2008

Well, I think the question should rather be: when will we see an African solution/competitor to PayPal on the market that goes beyond interim solutions such as M-Pesa & Co?

Saheed Folarin
July 03, 2008

You are right, I do not know why they have neglected we Africans. The developed countries should come to our aid, so that Paypal can include more countries in Africa.

Brandon Chuku
July 04, 2008

I think the issue with Paypal is the possibility that they aren't as familiar with the African terrain as we would like, because the era of e-commerce has definitely dawned in Africa.

With regards to an indigenous African e-payment system, there is a company in Ghana that I came across a couple of months ago when I was over there that is delving into developing such solutions.

i-Wallet it was called. Definitely a promising package to checkout. (

Sara at PayPal
July 07, 2008

I work for PayPal and wanted to let you know where we are in expanding our services more widely around the world. PayPal's intent is to expand our services globally wherever there is demand for our product -- whether that's Africa or anywhere around the world. Because PayPal has to comply with local regulations and integrate with the local financial infrastructure, these things take time. We are watching this market closely and will let you know when we roll out more advanced services. Thanks for your interest in PayPal.

Sara Gorman

PayPal Inc.

Gabriel Ogah
August 04, 2008

PayPal is not in Africa due to western prejudice. PayPal is not in Nigeria, the microcosm of Africa. Imagine that Nigeria is not listed in most payment sites. Western Union, agents that perpetrate begging or dependency (a euphemism for home remittances) patronizes Africa. Highly valuable books and software like Adobe, Web Translators and others are not sold to Africa (except South Africa). Over the years I have been denied the purchase of software solely because I am resident in Africa! Despite Doha, world free trade remains a pipe dream. The west knows that e-commerce will help educated Africans to escape poverty and enable them to challenge their corrupt leaders. Corrupt African leaders keep the continent in bondage to the west and make it perpetually dependent. All the new payment systems like ClickBank and AlertPay of Canada do not recognize African Banks. The best way out of this financial marginalization of Africa is for the continent to develop its own robust search engines like Baidu and Alibaba of China and its own e-payment platforms.

October 06, 2008

M-PESA is very good, I have used it and it can be a solution. The question is, will it ever go global?

Eriko Mukunza
June 13, 2009

Its a shame that bureaucracy and ignorance is standing in the way of Africa's development...STILL! So embarrassing! If anyone at PayPal is reading this, please make sure your company moves to be more inclusive and quicker.

The funny thing is: we can buy but we can't sell. Strange, isn't it?

July 31, 2009

It is vital that African communities be able to access PayPal services if they are ever going to be able to move towards sustainable community and sustainable living. The internet has provided an awesome opportunity for people everywhere on the planet to be able to generate revenue through small businesses and have access to information easily. This is an outrage that Africa has been left out of the loop and although we do not know how to push this issue across the right desk we are not going to stop until we find the right door - CHANGE is here and the old school - old farts - old crusty collapsing structures need to get out of the way - our generation is demanding SOLUTIONS be brought to the forefront. We will post back here on our progress...
In Sustainable Solidarity

Ojo Francis
August 07, 2009

It is quite unfortunate that paypal is treating african countries in this manner, but I think africans need to work together to force paypal services to accept african by participating in legal business most let work hard to improve our ecommerce.