What it feels like to launch an online business from Africa

When your country crashes you before even starting

3 Aug 2017, 10:27 PM: I was sitting on my couch scrolling Twitter, when I found this tweet:

I was always asked by my friends to review their resumes. They say I have an eye for quality, can catch errors and give ideas for amelioration. But the reality is, I’ve spent a lot of time writing, sending and correcting resumes that I can now spot errors and give “advices” or what they call ideas for amelioration.

So the first idea that came to my mind after reading Pieter’s tweet was: What if I can propose this as a service? You upload your resume, you pay some cash, 24h later you receive a complete review with advices to improve it.

That was my answer:

Shortly after, people started joining the conversation andgiving their feedback on the idea.

So without thinking twice, I started working on it!

3 Aug 2017, 11:40 PM: 1 hour and 13 minutes later, a prototype was ready for launch:

All it needs was verifying my Stripe account to start accepting payments online, no big deal! Well, I was wrong. Terribly wrong.

Stripe doesn’t support African countries. So being from Morocco, it was impossible for me to use it. Some folks on Twitter suggested to try other alternatives: PayPal? Nope. Braintree? Not even close…

I was exhausted, I checked every payment provider suggested and not a single one is supporting my country.

It’s time for bed…

4 Aug 2017, 3:28 PM: I spent all day thinking about a solution but couldn’t find one. So I asked on Twitter:

And then got a reply:

Looks like this is the answer, they are supporting African countries! But after checking their website, I found they are supporting: Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.

However, they told me to contact them. According to their support, they may have something for me. After a few messages on Twitter, they wanted me to beta test a new product designed for Morocco, I said Yes. I’ve been told that a representative from San Francisco will call me. And then, they vanished, with no response. I’m still waiting Flutterwave…

After all this, I started to lose hope. Not in this project, but the idea of starting a business online. Why starting an online business while you can’t even charge your customers?

14 Aug 2017, 2:42 AM: Suddenly I got another response:

A roller caster of emotions started again. What if it’s the answer? What if I can finally make it?

After removing Bitcoin and PayPal from the list, I was left with two options, and as you’ve guessed: They are not working in Morocco.

One because they aren’t implemented in Morocco:

And the other because my idea is against their Terms Of Service… I still don’t know why:

3 Sep 2017: This is when I tried something I didn’t want to try in the first place: Checking local payment providers in Morocco. Not because I’m lazy or something, I didn’t want for one simple reason: The monopoly.

Monopoly kills the industry. When no one is trying to take your customers, there will be no innovation and no improvement.

Let me describe the payment monopoly in Morocco:

  1. Only one company is allowed to move funds between banks in Morocco. If you want online payments, you’ll use them eventually. I spent a lot of time on their website and I couldn’t find any information about how much they charge on transactions. Welcome to the dark world! After contacting them (they work with phone only, I sent countless emails), they charge 1.5% for local cards2.5% for international cards and in order to be able to use the service, you need between 1000$ and 5300$ as a deposit depending on the business. Now that’s a lot! In addition to this, this company is in charge of moving funds only. If you want online payment, you need to chose a payment provider
  2. 3 payment providers can help you add payments to your website, and of course, their website don’t have enough information either. So I took my phone and called them: First one didn’t responded, I lost hope after trying multiple times. MarocTelecommerce want a 120$ initial fee + 0.5% per transaction. FPay want a 0.5% per transaction, with no initial fee, but if you want to quit before 3 years, you need to pay 300$

So let me sum up for you:

You need between 1000$ and 5300$ as a deposit, 2% to 3% per transaction, some hidden fees and be ready for a lot of paperwork

And guess what, you need to do all of this for EVERY WEBSITE. Yes, this setup is related to every website you own. In other words: There is no place for makers here.

21 Sep 2017, 3:43 PM: As a last try I asked Marc if he knows a payment provider that supports Morocco and he tweeted about it:

One of the responses that got my eye was this:

Paddle business model is quite different from PayPal or Stripe. They aren’t a payment provider, they are technically re-selling your products and they take care of VAT and everything for you. But this comes with a cost, you can’t actually sell services, only digital products: Books, software licences, subscriptions…

My original idea was a service: reviewing resumes. But looks like I can’t use Paddle with it either!

25 Sep 2017: “I need to do it! I just need to launch it!” Those are the words that kept coming to my head every time I think about the subject.

The only solution that came to my mind was transforming my idea to an acceptable business by the newly discovered Paddle. What if I could write everything that I know in a book/guide and sell it online? That’s it! Even if it’s not the type of experience I want to provide to my customers, but I prefer to at least launch something.

I opened my laptop and started writing…

10 Oct 2017: Website looks good, my guide looks good, payment working, it’s time to launch.

I launched my product: Review my Resume as a step-by-step guide on how to redact and review your resume. You can find it on the official website.

EDIT (April 2nd, 2019): Site isn’t working anymore as I took it down, I sold one copy of the book 🙂

It took me more than 2 months to launch a product! Not because the product is hard itself, but because I need to deal with things I’m not supposed to deal with. Imagine what could happens if we lower the barriers? Imagine if we could only concentrate on our products instead of integrating payments, etc? Good things can happen, more and more people will make and sell products online and probably employ others.

I know that people from developed countries have these advantages. They can start selling online in minutes, but the majority don’t have this privilege!

So, I guess I’m not allowed to access basic services just because I’m born in the wrong country?


One response to “What it feels like to launch an online business from Africa”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: