“I have tattooed on my left forearm the coordinates of the port of Zanzibar, where my family entered East Africa in 1850 as traders. In the 1970s a lot of East Africans of Indian origin left. They immigrated to Canada, where I was born. Then when I was two, I think my parents missed the weather, so they moved us to Florida.
“They didn’t grow up with the financial means to be able to travel the world. They came to Florida and started a dry cleaners. They very quickly realized that there was a lot of value in being able to understand different cultures, different people, and I think more importantly, understand that we’re all the same deep down. When I turned 16 was the first time they gave me a plane ticket.
“That became a tradition where they would send me places. They would give me experiences rather than things. That completely shaped the way that I view the world. Because as the kid of immigrants you’re often enamored by money, and this helped teach me that experiences are more valuable. I love being able to talk to folks about their experiences, where they live.
“I think energy poverty is important because it causes economic poverty. And while I very much appreciate all of the work being done off-grid to provide people with lighting services, entertainment services, if we’re going to solve these really big problems, like climate change, like food insecurity, like just billions of people living in poverty, we need to think about energy as a pathway to increase the productivity of low-income rural farmers, who make up the largest percentage of people living in poverty, while at the same time protecting them against the climate.
“We quickly realized that we have to first fix the water problem. So that’s how we started Africa’s first solar irrigation company. And so you can see the first principle is really understanding the problem with our customers, designing a solution for them, with them.”
Samir Ibrahim, CEO and Co-Founder of SunCulture, is one of the 320 people that author Bill Nussey interviewed for his book Freeing Energy: How innovators are using local-scale solar and batteries to disrupt the global energy industry from the outside in. Available for ordering today.
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