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 Master 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 black community.
She is the current Chair of the Royal African Society, a patron 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. 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, a former Chair of the London based freedom of speech campaign organization, Article 19, and a board member of the Overseas Development Institute.