Stephen McGown

Stephen McGown, an ordinary South African, was held hostage by Al-Qaeda in Mali for just short of 6 years. He was 36 years old at the time he was kidnapped from Timbuctoo along with a Dutch and Swedish national.

During this period, Stephen lived far from civilisation, was kept deep in the Sahara away from the searching eyes of French surveillance planes and drones. He had limited communication with the outside world – including his family in the first 6 months of his captivity. That then ceased altogether once the French military forces arrived in Mali.

Living outdoors, he learnt a variety of survival skills – including how to protect himself from the extreme elements – but most of all he learned how to stay alive and positive when everything was stacked against him. Uncertain as to whether he would ever be released or die in the Sahara, he made a decision to not let life’s problems get the better of him, but rather to be in control of what he could.

Stephen was finally released in August 2017 and is now re-booting his life.

He as a unique perspective on overcoming challenges and finding joy wherever it exists. Despite facing unimaginable circumstances, he not only survived but also thrived, turning his ordeal into an opportunity for personal growth. During his time in captivity, Stephen learned valuable lessons and made the most of his situation, emerging as a stronger and more resilient individual.

His story is a testament to the power of resilience, positivity, and the ability to find humour even in the darkest of times. Stephen believes that we all have the strength within us to face adversity and come out stronger on the other side. He encourages people to embrace life with a smile and a sense of humour.

By sharing his experiences and insights, Stephen is inspiring thousands of people, around the world, to approach life with courage, resilience, and don’t forget that sense of humor. His story is a reminder that even in the most difficult circumstances, there is always room for growth and possibilities.

Stephen is from Johannesburg where he went to school and attended university. Having spent 7 years in the UK after finally acquiring dual nationality, he and his wife were to return home to start a family and run his family’s farming business. This is at last a reality.