Zeinab was born in the Sudan - her family moved to London when she was two years old.
Zeinab studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University and took a Masters Degree (awarded with a distinction) on Middle East History and Anthropology at SOAS London University. In 2011 Zeinab was awarded an honorary doctorate by SOAS, London University for her services to international broadcasting. In 2015 she received a second honorary doctorate for journalism from the London College of Communications - University of the Arts London. Zeinab has extensive experience in television and radio, working on a range of programmes. She is one of the best-known broadcast journalists working in the field today. In 2009 she was awarded International TV Personality of the Year by the Association of International Broadcasters, and was named in Powerlist 2012 and 2015 as one of Britain’s top 100 most influential members of the blackcommunity. In 2016, Zeinab received the May Chidiac Foundation lifetime achievement award.
She is the current Chair of the Royal African Society, a Queen’s appointment to the Board of the Historic Royal Palaces, a trustee of BBC Media Action (the charitable arm of the BBC), a Vice-President of the United Nations Association UK, and a board member of the African Union Foundation. She is also a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council for Africa. Zeinab is a former trustee of the National Portrait Gallery. She has been a board member of the British Council, the Centre for Contemporary British History, aformer Chair of the London based freedom of speech campaign organisation, Article 19, and a board member of the Overseas Development Institute.
Hard Talk for the BBC: this programme has, and continues to feature some of the best-known personalities and politicians in the world. Zeinab also presents Global Questions and World Debates on BBC World TV featured on both BBC radio and television. Through her own production company she has produced and presented many programmes, including currently the definitive TV series of African history in association with UNESCO.
She has four children.