In the early 2000s, and in most west African countries including Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, when the internet cafe was a new phenomenon, many youngsters spent most of their time at the cyber cafes surfing the internet.
There was, however, a worrying trend that began to take wave in most of these internet cafes. The young men found dark net websites that gave them unlimited access to credit and master card details of people in Europe and America.
They used these details to shop for clothing, gadgets from e-commerce websites like Ebay and Amazon. When shipping of the goods were not allowed directly to Africa, the fraudsters would use their family and friends abroad as middle men / passage routes to receive the products and further ship them to Ghana and their respective countries.
Most of these poor and disadvantaged youth found a gold mine in this trade and they spent almost 24 hours shopping and fishing for credit card details to scam. Others went as far as using the paypal accounts of vulnerable account holders to orchestrate this dubious activity.
Somewhere around 2004, and after thousands of legitimate users of Paypal, amazon and ebay complained about unusual purchases and huge sums of money were getting lost in their accounts. These technology giants decided it was time to curb this fraudulent activity of credit card fraud.
They simultaneously decided to blacklist so many West African countries from using their platform for their illicit activities. Some of the countries that were blacklisted included Ghana , Nigeria and many other African countries.
For the next decade that followed, it was impossible for people resident in Ghana and the other blacklisted countries to make or receive payments on the PayPal platform.
With many online merchants using PayPal, sometimes exclusively, to receive payments for products and services, Ghana’s 24 million people, like many more in other blacklisted countries, were unable to transact business.
If you are wondering what Paypal is, paypal according to their official website was founded in 1998 and they continue to be at the forefront of the digital payments revolution processing almost 11.5 million payments for their customers per day.
PayPal gives people better ways to connect to their money and to each other, helping them send money without sharing financial information and with the flexibility to pay using their PayPal account balances, bank accounts, PayPal Credit and credit cards.
With about 162 million active digital wallets, they have created an open and secure payments ecosystem people and businesses choose to securely transact with each other online, in stores and on mobile devices.
PayPal is a truly global payment platform that is available to people in 203 markets, allowing customers to get paid in more than 100 currencies, withdraw funds to their bank accounts in 57 currencies and hold balances in their PayPal accounts in 26 currencies.
Fast forward to 2015, the year of the digital revolution where smart phones are not seen by many Ghanaians as luxurious products but a necessity, you should by now understand the immense role paypal would play in our cashless society.
We live in an era where many Ghanaian entrepreneurs with innovative products and services who would offer real value to buyers around the world and contribute to economic development locally, have been cut off from much of the world where PayPal is a major platform for receiving trading electronically.
“This is anti-business. Similarly, there are lots of social enterprises and charities that are working to improve lives and communities in Ghana and around Africa that are unable to accept donations via PayPal.
“All over the world, online donations have powered a variety of social innovations and charity projects. Being blacklisted means many innovative social enterprises and charities in Ghana are deprived access to potential donors. This isn’t progressive.”
These are the words of Samuel Darko, a District Rotaract Representative.
In 2013 many African youth decided to use social media and other media to gain the attention of Paypal. I will name two of the notable campaigns whose aim was for paypal to be brought to their respective countries. One of them is the outspoken change maker Samuel Darko who I mentioned earlier.
He started an online petition here: https://www.change.org/p/rupert-keeley-enable-paypal-in-ghana, to make it possible for people resident in Ghana to make or receive payments on the PayPal platform. His target was 5,000 signatures but was able to get about 2,486 signatures and a lot of social media buzz.
The second campaign was started by a Nigerian company called Creativity Kills, founded by Neo Ighodaro and they were also able to gain 597 supporters. These initiatives were very essential proving that the ‘new’ African is able to take the necessary steps for him/her to be heard.
These campaigns gained a lot of recognition but paypal was unresponsive for a long time until they finally decided to listen to the pleas of certain countries. According to Rupert Keeley, the executive in charge of the EMEA region of PayPal, as at Tuesday 17th of June, 2014, users from Nigeria and other countries from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America were finally given access to be able to use the online payment platform. This meant PayPal was now being used in 203 countries.
This came as a shock to the Ghanaian technology community since we also petitioned as one of the blacklisted countries along with Nigeria but they were given access to the platform excluding us.
It made a little sense because Nigeria now has one of the biggest economies in Africa as well one of Africa’s biggest with a population of 173.6 million as of 2013. Ghana on the other hand has a lesser population of about 25 million.
In my humble opinion, the reason paypal ignored us was that we made a lot of noise internally only on social media about our petition and as a result, the message did not get to the right desk at the Paypal offices.
We should have also made good use of institutions like the Ministry of foreign affairs to intervene on our behalf as well as push further the message out there to our networks in the Diaspora about the rise of young Ghanaian entrepreneurs.
FYI: A representative of Paypal, last week revealed that apart from South Africa, Nigeria is the second largest market for their payment solution, followed by Kenya.
“We are happy to see that PayPal has been widely welcomed by Nigerians since the launch of the service in the country last year,” the Head of Business Development Sub-Saharan Africa, Malvina Goldfeld said.
Untill then, some of us will use our meagre resources available to fight and bring paypal back to Ghana.
(This story was culled from the General Telegraph)