Speaker & Host
Afua Hirst is a award winning author, broadcaster and journalist, former war reporter, barrister and international development worker, Afua Hirsch has a unique perspective on diversity, cultural intelligence and current affairs. A fine speaker and a presenter on Sky News show The Pledge, Afua is passionate about women's issues, social justice, diversity and politics.
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Read more about Afua Hirsh
Afua Hirsch is an award winning author, broadcaster, and journalist. A former TV correspondent, war reporter, barrister and international development worker, she has formed her unique perspective on cultural intelligence and current affairs from two decades working in a wide range of sectors in British society and across the world. Afua’s career began age just 15 as a journalist on The Voice newspaper, where she began chronicling the challenges and struggles facing Britain’s black teenagers. She went on to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, where she was made a scholar, and then on graduating moved to the West African country Senegal where she worked for the non-profit foundation established by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Her work on building transparency in the oil, gold, diamond and other natural resource industries led to unprecedented coalitions between the private and public sectors.
Afua Hirst returned to the UK, qualifying as a barrister at prestigious human rights chambers Doughty Street, where she practised criminal defence, housing, immigration, international and media law. This informed her decision to become a journalist, joining The Guardian Newspaper as its legal affairs correspondent. She broke numerous exclusive and front page stories, including on government abuse of power in storing DNA data, counter-terrorism measures, secrecy in the courts and the use of superinjunctions by the courts. As The Guardian’s West Africa correspondent Afua set up the newspaper’s first ever bureau in the region, based in Ghana, where she covered the war in Mali, reporting the seizure of large parts of the country by Islamic-linked insurgents and the French-led international military action against them. She has reported and spoken extensively about the impact of Islamist rule on women and children’s rights, and all over West Africa about corruption, education, resource exploitation, tech innovation, entrepreneurialism and social change. Her film about illegal gold mining in Ghana led to the expulsion of thousands of illegal Chinese miners from the country.
In 2014 Afua Hirst was appointed Social Affairs and Education Editor at Sky News, leading the channel’s news coverage of a wide range of issue from immigration, radicalisation and child protection to the schools funding crisis and deprivation in schools. She anchored the news and continues to appear regularly on hard-hitting debate show The Pledge. Since leaving Sky News in 2017, Afua also appears on BBC’s Radio 4, Newsnight, and ITV News. Afua’s first book Brit(ish) explores identity, race, heritage and Britishness, and will be published in 2017 by Penguin / Jonathan Cape. It has already won the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood award for a commissioned first book on non-fiction. Written as narrative non-fiction, Brit(ish) explores Afua’s life-long interest in identity and Britain’s struggles to face up to its past and accommodate its multi-cultural future, issues which have recently come to the fore of British politics and raised profound questions about its place in the world.
Afua has used her platform in the media to be an outspoken critic of obstacles diversity and fair opportunity in British society for people from diverse class, race and gender backgrounds, and to suggest her own unique perspective on what the answers might be. Her life is also a testament to adaptability, moving seamlessly across professions and countries, whether in human rights law, news reporting or documentary making. She also maintained her interest and knowledge in Africa and emerging economies generally, and often speaks and chairs events on investment and economic growth abroad. She has moderated debates on subjects ranging from domestic violence, authenticity in literature, and the social impact of artificial intelligence, to vegetarianism, private equity and political leadership. She is widely known as an engaging, compelling and fluent speaker, moderator and chair.
"Afua was the standout star of our major feminism event which took place in front of nearly 1,000 people. The audience were clearly swept away by her, cheering and applauding at her witty, eloquent interventions. What most blew everyone away was the passion, insight and intelligence that she conveyed in everything she said.”
Robert Collins, Intelligence Squared
“Lit Fest organisers: can't think I've seen more skillful chairing of a panel than @afuahirsch at @TheFolioPrize talk yesterday. My hat is off. You were an absolute don in directing the chat with grace and intelligence.”
Catherine O’Flynn, Costa Prize winning author