Stephen McGown is from Johannesburg, South Africa. He obtained his degree in Finance and worked in some of the large South African banks. In order to expand his career, Stephen went across to the UK and worked in London for 7 years.

While in London, Stephen met his wife, Catherine, who shared the same desire to return to South Africa; start a family and manage his family’s farming business.

It was this farming business that inspired a passion for the outdoors and planted the seed in Stephen for adventure from a young age. At the age of 11 he learnt to ride a small motorcycle on the farm. The freedom he felt from riding in the eastern Free State, near Lesotho, ignited his desire to ride a motorcycle through Africa, with home being the final destination.

An unexpected turn of events crushed his life long dream. En route home, Stephen was abducted by Al Qaeda and held hostage in Mali for almost 6 years.

Stephen McGown was kidnapped from Timbuktu, along with a Dutch and Swedish national on 25 November 2011.

He was 36 at the time of the kidnapping.

Who inspired you to pursue professional speaking?

My friends and family who said I had a story that needed to be told.

What do you like most about professional speaking?

I enjoy interacting with people, I like the honesty of it and seeing emotion on people’s faces, from tears to their eyes being shiny with life. I like the “realness” of the interaction.

What do you dislike most about professional speaking?

Pre-speaking jitters

Why have you succeeded in a field where many have failed? (public speaking)

I find it fascinating that through my experience I have become one of the most sought after public speakers in South Africa in my genre.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Johannesburg in South Africa although I did spend much of my childhood on our farm knee deep in mud.

Where did you study?

I studied my degree and post grad through UNISA

What did you study?

Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Commerce Honours in Marketing, Finance and Risk

Who is your celebrity crush?

It was Meg Ryan

What do you watch on TV?

I enjoy series’s, comedies, and movies based on actual events

How did you get started?

I began working in investment banking before deciding to move into farming.

What are your career goals?

I would like to impact as many people as possible with my story, I enjoy the feeling of touching peoples lives. I have done over 200 talks in South Africa and abroad in the past three years. I would like to get a greater hold on the international audience.

What are your personal goals?

I want to keep a balanced life and spend time doing what I enjoy.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Go for a walk with my wife and our dogs.

Any hobbies?

birdwatching, fishing, mountain biking, running, motorcycling.

Do you have hidden talents?

Speaking rubbish

Your biggest pet peeve and why?

When people say “I can’t help it”. If we aren’t in control of our own lives, who is? “I can’t help it” is taking the easy way out.

If you could invite any three people in the world (alive or dead) for dinner, who would they be and why?

Dr David Livingstone (what an incredible life he must have had exploring Africa, he must have some amazing stories), Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu (he was an amazing man and involved in trying to get me out the desert. I wanted to reach out to him and regret that I did not before he passed away). My mom (She passed away while I was in the desert. I would just love to have a chat with her).

Tell us three things about you that nobody would guess.

I stutter, I was kidnapped, I like milkshakes

If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?


Chocolate or vanilla?


 See the movie or Read the book?

Band of Brothers

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would that be?

Saturate yourself in what you enjoy.

If there is one message that the world NEEDS to hear from you, what is it?

You have everything you need to overcome every challenge, right inside you.