'Everything is destroyed': Gaza-based start-up SunBox faces uncertain future amid war

Solar energy company's office and warehouses bombed, executive says

SunBox, which provides cheap solar panels to power thousands of homes in Gaza, is unsure about the well-being of its 15 employees. Photo: Sunbox
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A Gaza-based start-up that powers thousands of homes in the besieged enclave with cheaper solar panels is uncertain about its future as Israel continues to bombard the Palestinian territory, killing people and destroying its infrastructure.

SunBox’s office and warehouses near Al Shifa hospital in central and eastern Gaza city have been bombed, said Kamal Almashharawi, the company’s head of operations.

Mr Almashharawi is not sure whether operations will restart once the war ends.

“We are not sure how Gaza is going to look like after this war,” he told The National.

“When I left Gaza, it was just rubble. It’s mass destruction and everything is destroyed. It [will] cost billions of dollars to rebuild the infrastructure of Gaza.”

Mr Almashharawi was evacuated from Gaza last month and is currently in Riyadh with his family.

More than 18,200 people have been killed in the enclave and nearly 50,000 wounded since the war with Israel broke out on October 7.

The war began after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an assault in which its gunmen killed at least 1,200 Israelis, with 240 taken hostage.

“We were functioning before October 7 and the company was doing great,” Mr Almashharawi said.

SunBox was profiled by The National in October 2021, when it was seeking to expand its operations across the Middle East.

“But since the war began, we weren’t able to do work or have access to supplies or projects. We don’t have any idea what happened to projects whether they still exist or are damaged,” Mr Almashharawi said.

“We were supposed to receive payments from our projects but we can’t because of the war and it’s been very difficult to keep up the business, try to cover all those expenses.”

SunBox provides cheap solar panels for residential buildings as well as to factories and other units. It has taken up more than 300 projects since it launched its operations in 2018 and was planning to raise more money to expand its operations.

“The company is shut and I don't even know how our employees are, whether they are alive or injured. I couldn’t reach out to them because of the internet service breakdown,” Mr Almashharawi said.

The company lost contact with its 10 full-time employees and five part-time workers when they moved from the north to the south, he said.

Residents in Gaza report a significant surge in food prices

Residents in Gaza report a significant surge in food prices

While Sunbox continued to pay employee salaries online from its emergency fund, Mr Almashharawi said they were not certain whether the money was being received.

There are hundreds of start-ups based in Gaza operating in different fields and facing a bleak future as the war has destroyed the entire business ecosystem, he said.

“I don’t think any company can survive, especially if it is a start-up, which is a fragile business,” he added.

The economic outlook for the territory was grim even before the war broke out, with high unemployment and poverty as well as negligible foreign investment.

The war is expected to exacerbate the situation with most of the enclave's infrastructure damaged.

“I heard wonderful stories before the war [about start-ups]. I don’t think those stories exist any more,” Mr Almashharawi said.

“The infrastructure for the start-ups, the client base, the investment, everything is destroyed.”

Updated: December 13, 2023, 4:37 AM