In our globalized world, where businesses and individuals from different countries work together to deliver products and services across all segments, online payment services play an essential role, making it possible for all members of the global market to easily send and receive money across borders. Unfortunately for Lebanese citizens, one of the most important online payment services in the world, PayPal, doesn’t see Lebanon as its priority.
We’ve written this article to answer commonly asked questions about the availability of PayPal in Lebanon, hoping to clear up some of the confusion among Lebanese business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and those who just want to purchase goods and services from outside Lebanon.
Does PayPal Work In Lebanon In 2020?
The short answer is: No, PayPal doesn’t work in Lebanon in 2020.
At the time of writing this article, PayPal is available in more than 200 countries and supports 25 currencies, but Lebanon sadly isn’t one of them. You can see the full list of supported countries here.
The following Asia Pacific countries are supported by PayPal in 2020: Armenia, Australia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Mainland China, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hong Kong SAR, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands, Qatar, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna, Yemen.
As you can see, Lebanon isn’t on the list, which is bad news for its nearly 7 million citizens, who are deprived of valuable opportunities because they don’t have access to one of the most used online payment services in the world.
Why Isn’t PayPal Available In Lebanon?
For some time in 2013, it seemed that PayPal would be available in Lebanon before the end of the year, at least according to what Elias Ghanem, the then general manager of PayPal Middle East, said at the Arabnet Beirut conference.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take a long time for PayPal to change its position. “When we announced the launch of PayPal services in Egypt in May, there was a misinterpretation about Lebanon’s launch,” said Laurent Wakim, then business manager of PayPal MENA.
He continued by explaining that PayPal is always trying to expand its geographic footprint, but the company needs to prioritize available opportunities against other initiatives. “So, while enabling Lebanon remains a priority for us, we don’t have any timeline that we can share. There are no reasons per se why PayPal is not launching Lebanon; it is a matter of priorities.”
Sadly, Lebanon has clearly still not become PayPal’s priority, and many Lebanese citizens would like to know why. One possible reason is that the laws, rules, and regulations for banks and online payment services in Lebanon don’t allow PayPal to offer its services in the way the company would like to.
However, it’s also possible that PayPal came to the conclusion that Lebanon isn’t worth the effort from the business perspective. The population of Lebanon is approximately 6.8 million, and only 80 percent of people in the country have access to the internet, which leaves us with around 5.4 million potential users.
Is There Some Way For People In Lebanon To Use PayPal?
While some online merchants that accept PayPal allow their customers to pay without a PayPal account using a credit card, most people in Lebanon would, understandably, prefer to use PayPal without any limitations.
Questionable services like “PayPal Lebanon” are one way for Lebanese citizens to open a PayPal account. Essentially, all such services charge a small fee ($30 in the case of PayPal Lebanon) for opening a PayPal account linked to a virtual Visa card from another country.
However, such services violate PayPal’s User Agreement, which clearly states that “In connection with your use of our website, your Account, the Services, or in the course of your interactions with PayPal, other Users, or third parties, you will not: Access the Services from a country that is not included on PayPal’s permitted countries list“.
Note: NEVER share your personal or financial information (bank or credit card information) with strangers, or with websites that you do not trust or are not secure.
When the PayPal security system detects that someone is trying to access their account from a country that’s not included on PayPal’s permitted countries list, the company automatically restricts the account and makes the user wait 180 days before enabling them to withdraw their money.
The sad truth is that this exact scenario happens to a lot of people who try to use PayPal with a VPN, and it usually ends with them being unable to withdraw their money because PayPal won’t let them use their Lebanese bank account.
Even after many years of waiting, people living in Lebanon still can’t legally use PayPal to send and receive money. While there are ways to use a PayPal account opened in another country, the risks involved make it not worth the effort.
5G In Lebanon – Everything You Need To Know
Despite its many problems, Lebanon has always seen itself as a technology hub where movers and shakers from the entire MENA region gather to change the world and make it a better place. That’s why the country has always been willing to spend money on its telecommunications infrastructure in order to support the needs of its nearly 5 million mobile users.
Currently, Lebanon is preparing to upgrade its infrastructure to 5G, which promises greater transmission speeds, lower latency, and much larger capacity. Officials, as well as businesses and their employees, have realized that the wheels of the Lebanese economy (in a world where Covid-19 is still a major threat) can only keep on turning if there is a modern telecommunications infrastructure in place, ready to enable remote working arrangements.
But what is the current state of 5G in Lebanon? Is it almost ready to be deployed country-wide, or will it still take several years for people living in Lebanon to see the 5G icon on their mobile devices? The answer to these questions may surprise you.
Major Lebanese Telcos Are Preparing For A 5G Future
Near the end of 2018, Touch, one of the two mobile telephony and data operators in Lebanon, partnered with Huawei to perform the first commercial 5G trial in the nation. The trial took place at the Grand Serail in Beirut under the patronage of the Prime Minister Designate Saad Hariri.
“At the Ministry of Telecommunications, we are determined to modernize the existing infrastructure to accommodate the latest technology advancements,” addressed the Caretaker Minister of Telecommunication Jamal Jarrah the audience, which included ministers, ambassadors, academics, and economy experts. “We began to deploy fiber optics across Lebanon, to benefit the Lebanese citizens with modern technology, in addition to expanding mobile networks to keep up with developments,” he added.
According to Touch Chief Executive Officer Emre Gurkan, the trial was a momentous milestone for the operator, moving it one step closer to achieving its long-term goal of improving the quality of life for everyone in Lebanon. Huawei was also pleased with the results of the trial, stating that the collaboration with Touch was another example of how the company is committed to working with local partners to provide tailored solutions that meet local requirements.
Not even a year after Touch and Huawei joined forces to perform the first commercial 5G trial in Lebanon, the other major operator in the country, Alfa, performed a live 5G trial at Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit Beirut, where it showcased, in partnership with Nokia and Ericsson, what its data network is capable of when combined with the latest technologies and devices.
Alfa called the live trail “the final step to 5G in Lebanon” and said that it’s ready to go live with the technology later the same year. “We are only steps away from the official 5G launch. We have established official partnerships for this pioneering 5G network deployment since 2017 with our network suppliers which are of the top worldwide,” said Marwan Hayek, the Chief Executive Officer of Alfa, during an exclusive interview with Telecom Review.
First 5G Networks Available In Lebanon
In September 2019, Touch issued a press release, announcing the launch of the country’s first 5G mobile site. In the press release, the operator claimed that it had been able to achieve data speeds of up to 1.4 Gbps at the site, with a latency of less than just 6 ms.
“Last year, we officially conducted Lebanon’s first commercial 5G trial and today we are proud to be the first mobile operator to launch the first 5G site in Lebanon, a crucial step that will soon allow us to offer the most innovative products and services to our customers in consumer, business, IoT, and smart cities sectors,” said Touch CEO Emre Gurkan.
The only problem is that the mobile site is located at the operator’s headquarters in downtown Beirut, where it’s used exclusively for internal testing and technical demonstrations. Regular Touch customers who would like to experience the benefits of 5G are out of luck, and it’s not certain for how long.
The good news is that people living in Lebanon don’t have to wait for Touch or Alfa to finally make 5G publicly available because they can simply travel to Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport and connect to its 5G fixed wireless service, which Ogero, the fixed infrastructure operator in Lebanon, launched under the patronage of the President of the Council of Ministers Mr. Saad Hariri.
“Beirut’s airport is the first in the region to provide 5G service for its passengers,” said Minister of Telecommunications Mohammed Choucair. “We thank the General Manager of Ogero and the Middle East Airlines. We hope to see an improvement not only at the airport but throughout Lebanon,” he added as he announced the news from the airport.
The launch of the 5G fixed wireless service at the airport was met with mixed reactions, with many people pointing out that the country has other things to spend money on, many of which are more important than 5G service for passengers.
Does Lebanon Even Need 5G?
The Lebanese government sees technology as one of the keys to unlocking a more prosperous future, and it believes that 5G can help foster a digital ecosystem in the country and attract successful businesses. Unsurprisingly, not everyone shares the same viewpoint, but the fact remains that there’s a growing body of research supporting the position of the Lebanese government.
For example, the GSM Association, an industry organization that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, published a study on the socio-economic benefits of 5G services, which states that the mmWave spectrum alone (one radio frequency spectrum used to provision 5G services) may generate $15.4 billion in the MENA region and contribute 1.1 percent of GDP growth.
The study also mentions several less quantifiable benefits of 5G, including improved health & longer lifespan, increase independence & autonomy, reduced pollution, increased access to education, increased access to healthcare, improved public safety/emergency response, and shorter commute times.
Clearly, 5G is an important enabler of growth that can contribute significantly to the country’s economic activity, even if there are many other areas of potential improvement the Lebanese government can focus on. By embracing 5G as early as possible, Lebanon can maintain its status of a regional innovation hub and further bolster its digital startup ecosystem, giving the country’s brightest minds one more reason to stay.