Stephen McGown

$10,000-$15,000
Africa

Specialty Areas

Stephen 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 interrupted his life long dream. En route home, Stephen was abducted by Al Qaeda and held hostage in Mali for almost 6 years. He is currently the longest held surviving Al Qaeda hostage in the world.
He was kidnapped from Timbuktu, along with a Dutch and Swedish national on 25 November 2011. He was 36 at the time of the kidnapping.

During Stephen's abduction, he was kept far from civilisation, deep in the Sahara, away from the searching eyes of French surveillance planes and drones. He was allowed limited communication with his family in the first six months of his captivity. However, when the French Military Forces arrived in Mali, this ceased altogether. Stephen was cut off from all familiar ways of life.

Living outdoors in harsh conditions meant that he had to acquire a variety of new skills including how to protect himself from the elements as well as how to communicate across language and cultural boundaries. But most of all, he learnt how to stay alive; remain positive and be present when everything was stacked against him. Uncertain as to whether he would ever be released or die in the expanse of the Sahara, he made a decision to not let his situation get the better of him. He decided to rather hold onto hope and take control of his attitude.

Stephen was finally released in August 2017.

Stephen continues to claim back his life with a fresh and positive outlook, using the skills he acquired in the desert during his extreme experience. A part of this process is sharing his story to inspire others with hope and a way to overcome any situation that challenges or tests them.

If I was not going to be killed, then I needed to use this time productively and come back a better person. After all, the biggest tragedy would have been to have wasted my 5 years 8 months in the desert, to come back angry having learnt nothing. I had to make the most of my time!

Speaking topics

Freedom is an attitude

Stephen shares a message of making the most of all situations whether they are good or bad. Even though Stephen's story is far removed from the reality of most people's lives, the essence of his struggles are not far off from those of his audience. His talk promises to inspire and leave his audience questioning their own attitude and dilemmas. He is the perfect choice for a keynote speaker and will set the perfect tone for your event.

Stephen's talk is a story about resilience and overcoming adversity amidst harsh weather conditions, a different culture, language and religion. He talks about making important decisions, about the importance of acceptance and communication. He shares a concept that Freedom is an attitude.

Stephen McGown speaker

Speaker Video

Other speakers you might like:

Liza Pavlakos

Liza Pavlakos is a successful entrepreneur and a powerful speaker who has inspired over 100,000 audiences across six continents. Founder of Positive Breakthroughs, working with a team of experienced chartered psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and coaches who are passionate about improving mental health and committed to offering therapy to all individuals regardless of their age, race, culture, disability, sexual orientation, or socio-economic background.

Brett Connellan

Turning the worst day of your life into your best is no easy feat, but sometimes there is simply no other option. In Brett Connellan’s case, this day included the moment every surfer’s worst nightmare became his reality when he was attacked by a Great White Shark.

 Fortunately, the cards fell in Brett’s favour, and he managed to pull through with the help of a brave friend, timely emergency support and a healthy serving of luck.

Kristy Goodwin

One of Australia’s leading digital wellbeing and peak performance experts

Heidi Dening

Heidi Dening is an award-winning business owner and best-selling author who believes that education changes lives.

James Kerr

The author of global best-seller Legacy, reveals the simple secrets of success behind some of the world's elite business, sports and military organisations.

Back to Top