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GSG community members, alongside others from the broader Gaza community, of online freelancers face major difficulties processing their online payments. Most online freelancers in Gaza are forced to depend on services like MoneyGram or Western Union which are  terribly expensive and not always an option for some of their international clients.
Other restrictions like not having PayPal available for West Bank/Gaza local bank accounts, and Palestinian banking policies that do not allow freelancers with non-merchant accounts to receive or send SWIFT/IBAN wire transfers, freelancers are left with a limited number of other alternatives such as Payoneer cards, which have problems of its own since transfer costs are relatively high coupled with ATM withdrawal fees and low weekly limits on cash withdrawals, not mention that the company has recently started restricting the issuance of those cards to only Israeli banks account holders. Bitcoin and virtual currency, though not that popular in Gaza yet, present an interesting potential solution to money transfer issues. Incorporated early stage companies, on the other hand, are able to open merchant bank accounts in Palestine that can send/receive wires, but outdated investment laws and also limited integration options between Palestinian bank accounts and online payment gateways, impede their experience as well. Any other solutions are mostly out of question for Gazans who cannot leave their home country that’s been under siege for over 10 years.
Currently, our entrepreneurs have access to incorporation and payments solutions in the United States (Delaware) through our partnership with Stripe’s Atlas program, and in the West Bank via power of attorney, however, that is not a one size fits all solution.
We believe there are alternate, potentially more efficient, jurisdictions and banking options for startups and sole-proprietor freelancers based in Gaza. Which is why we, supported by Mercy Corps, partnered with MasterCard, to have two of their employees; Lisa-Marie Gilla and Gaurav Sachdeva, visit a week in Gaza and another in the West Bank researching all the available options for e-payments, the obstacles of processing online payments, and possible solutions to it. The duo, with the help of GSG team members, had a full schedule filled with meetings with local monetary authorities, banks, law firms, local money transfer shops, entrepreneurs, freelance agencies, incubators and accelerators of the region and individual online freelancers.  The end result will be a research paper complete with actionable recommendations on the most cost efficient international payment solutions, as well as creative solutions that Gazans can utilize to more efficiently and inexpensively utilize existing bank and non-bank solutions to receive payments in Gaza. They will also share pro bono experience and impact with Mastercard employees through blogs, articles on websites, etc.
We will make sure to share the research results with our community members and supporters once it is completed.