As any online business owner in South Africa will tell you, one of the biggest challenges they face is which payment gateway to use in order to accept payments online.
Strict exchange controls that have been put in place by the South African government make it extremely difficult to do online transactions in foreign currencies as a business based in South Africa.
As it stands right now, you cannot get a Stripe account in South Africa. That, however, does come with a caveat. There is a process through something called Stripe Atlas, which allows you, as a South African business owner, to start a legal business entity in the United States which will then give you access to a Stripe account.
I will explain this process in more detail later in this post. But first, let’s find out a little more about Stripe…
Stripe is an American based tech company whose software enables business and individuals to receive and make payments online. You can learn more about Stripe here)
Is Stripe available in South Africa?
Stripe is used by thousands of businesses around the world and as an end-user you’ve probably used it within South Africa borders when purchasing from an online business and not even known it.
Unfortunately, as a business, you are not able to open a Stripe account if you are solely operating in South Africa. Stripe is rolling their technology out to more and more countries and South Africa is on their development roadmap, but there is no indication of when it will be available to use in South Africa.
If you’ve been lucky enough to use Stripe as an online business, you’ll know just how easy and seamless it is to integrate with existing e-commerce and online platforms.
It’s simple to set up and there is very little friction from an end-user perspective which positively impacts conversion rates.
But there is a way to get access to a Stripe account as a South African…
Stripe Atlas as an option for South African businesses
A few years ago Stripe developed a program called Stripe Atlas. Stripe Atlas enables businesses around the world in countries who do not have access to Stripe, like South Africa, to apply for access through the program.
For a fee of $500, Stripe Atlas will incorporate a business entity for you in the state of Delaware in the United States and will set up a bank account so that you can start trading as soon as all the administration and paperwork is out of the way.
The bad news is not all businesses are accepted into the Stripe Atlas program through the application process.
But there is another way to get a Stripe Atlas account and that is through an invitation from an existing Stripe Atlas user. I may or may not be one 😉 #JustSaying
As much as Stripe Atlas is a viable option to create a new business entity in the United States, it does come with some pitfalls. One of which, and it’s probably the biggest, is running a second business entity in a different country.
The disadvantage of stripe atlas for South Africans
There is a massive disadvantage of using Stripe Atlas as a South African business. As soon as you start a second business entity in a different country, the same legal, accounting and tax rules that apply to multinational corporations, are applied to you.
This obviously comes at quite a steep financial cost. Even though setting everything ups is fairly cheap initially, for many small startups in South Africa the ongoing costs or running a second business entity in the United States is crippling.
That said, there are businesses in place that you can employ to handle these functions for you, but do bear in mind that they come at a significant cost.
What is the Stripe alternatives in South Africa?
If you aren’t able to get a Stripe account through Stripe or Stripe Atlas in South Africa, the next question would be the next best thing?
As a South African business owner, what are the alternatives to Stripe do you have to accept payments?
There are various payment gateways that you can use as a South African business owner. I have listed a few of them below: (If you are looking for an alternative to Stripe, I have written this extensive post on the best & cheapest payment gateways in South Africa)
- Peach Payments
I will be digging into this topic in more detail in the coming weeks and months. I’ll also be showing you exactly how to integrate various payment gateways, including Stripe into your website and third-party platforms so that you can sell online.
You can watch those video tutorials on my YouTube channel.