Zeinab was born in the Sudan and moved to London at the age of two. Her father, prominent Sudanese – Mohammed-Khair El Badawi, was involved in pre-independence politics in Sudan. Her great-grandfather was Babikir Badri, pioneer of women’s education and founder of the Ahfad women’s university in Sudan.
Zeinab studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University and holds a Masters Degree (awarded with a distinction) in Middle East History and Anthropology from London University. In July 2011 Zeinab was awarded an honorary doctorate by SOAS, London University for her services to international broadcasting.
Zeinab has extensive experience in television and radio, working on a range of programs. 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 in 2011 and 2015 was named in Powerlist (published by Powerful Media Ltd) as one of Britain’s top 100 most influential members of the black community.
She is the current Chair of the Royal African Society, a patron of the BBC Media Action (the charitable arm of the BBC), Vice-President of the United Nations Association UK, and a board member of the African Union Foundation.
She is a former trustee of the National Portrait Gallery. She has been a board member of the British Council, a former Chair of the London based freedom of speech campaign organization, Article 19, and a board member of the Overseas Development Institute.
She currently works at HARDtalk, a BBC program featuring some of the best- known personalities and politicians in the world. Zeinab also presents the World Debates and Intelligence Squared Debates on the BBC: featured on both radio and television.
Through her own production company she has produced and presented many programs including currently the definitive TV series of African history in partnership with UNESCO. She has also moderated high-level panel discussions at conferences organized by international bodies such as the WHO, UNESCO, UNIDO.