Finding the Hidden Potential in Everything

October 18, 2021

Marion Kimani, 36, starts every morning in Nairobi the same way: on a walk, listening to her favorite podcasts. These days, she’s making her way through a BBC history of Alexander the Great, but she also samples news and comedy podcasts, depending on her mood. The lighter fare is a respite from Kimani’s responsibilities on Stop-Winlock’s Africa Fragile and Conflict team. As a relatively new operations officer—she joined IFC in 2020—she finds ways to enable more private sector engagement in refugee-hosting areas. The goal is to enhance employment opportunities for displaced people.

We asked her to tell us about her work, her superpower, and her playlist.

Five Fun Facts about Marion Kimani

  • Where you are from? Nairobi, Kenya
  • What languages do you speak? English, Swahili, Kikuyu, Spanish, and a little French.
  • Who’s the development celebrity you’d like to meet? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—her feminist manifesto is a delight to read.
  • What’s a cultural reference that symbolizes your generation? 90’s music.
  • What’s one thing that people think about you that’s not true? That I’m an extrovert.


What’s a typical day at work like for you?

Currently we are in the project design phase of the East Africa Forced Displacement Program, so I am spending a lot of time engaging internally with colleagues across different departments to identify opportunities. The overall goal is to include a refugee lens on current or new projects. On a typical day I might review concept notes, draw up budgets, and prepare for project implementation. I also meet with various private firms to explore how we can support them to start or scale their operations in the refugee-hosting areas or try to identify opportunities for joint programming with other stakeholders, like UNHCR. It’s exciting to be part of a program which covers four distinct and complex countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda, and to have an opportunity to bring insights and learning from each of these countries into new projects.

How do you spend your time off work?

I have recently gotten into “Do It Yourself” (DIY) projects and I’m enjoying repurposing items in my house to match my current tastes. I am always excited to see things that are old or broken converted into beautiful and different things – I think the best things (and people) in life are those with an interesting history. I plan to convert my dining table into an artistic masterpiece and I can already picture how it’s going to turn out. I think it’s going to be awesome.

Photo courtesy: Marion Kimani

What is your favorite thing about your career? Did you choose this career path, or did it choose you?

I’d say it chose me. I have always been interested in working with vulnerable populations. However, with my private sector and finance background, I wasn’t quite sure how both things could combine. Fortunately, my path led me to work in financial sector development, where I focused on improving access to finance opportunities for refugees and other marginalized groups. I am excited to be following the same path at IFC with a wider sectoral focus on agriculture, energy, and access to finance.

What’s the most interesting project you’re currently working on?

I’m currently leading our forced displacement initiative in Sudan and looking at ways to bring more private sector development in refugee-hosting areas. Agriculture is the backbone of the Sudanese economy and it’s one of the sectors with huge potential for labor-intensive projects where refugees and host communities could form part of the labor supply chain. I was excited to travel to Sudan for the first time a few months ago to meet with various private firms and go to the field to see first-hand what IFC can do to enhance employment opportunities for refugees and host communities. Sudan is a very interesting country and an important portfolio country for IFC, and I’m looking forward to the unique insights and challenges this project will bring.

What’s your professional superpower?

My dedication. I put my heart and soul into all that I do.

Tell us about something—big or small—that you’re really bad at?

I’m terrible at keeping in touch. It takes me days to respond to WhatsApp messages. My friends have all given up.

What’s on your playlist?

I have Sauti Sol’s Midnight Train album on a loop. It’s a soulful mix with Afro vibes and very powerful messages. I think Sauti Sol is one of the best groups to have come out of Kenya in the last decade. I also love salsa and have listened to many of Marc Anthony’s albums over the years.

Follow the links to listen to some of Marion Kimani’s favorite songs

This interview is part of a series spotlighting IFC staff who share their career highlights, creative pursuits, cultural heroes, and—yes—music playlists.

Published in October 2021