Guinean father who biked across Africa to get to university gets surprise gift from Will Smith

Stephen Nartey January 05, 2024
Will Smith & Mamadou Safayou Barry/Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/BBC

Hollywood megastar Will Smith has surprised Mamadou Safayou Barry, a Guinean man who cycled 4,000km to reach university, with a video call. Barry shocked the world with his audacious trek in the pursuit of his dreams.

Smith said he was “deeply moved” by Barry’s journey and gifted him a new bike and a laptop during the call. Smith discovered Barry’s story through a BBC Instagram post in September.

“I want the world to hear your story,” Smith added. In a short film on Smith’s YouTube channel, Barry expressed his shock and admiration for the Men in Black star. Barry enthusiastically exclaimed, “This is Will Smith! A lot of your films I love.”

“I don’t know how to thank you Wallahi [I swear]! I don’t know how to thank you,” he exclaimed when he learned about the gifts.

Smith’s publicity team reached out to the BBC after Barry’s remarkable journey was published, expressing that the story had deeply touched the actor. The team sought to arrange a conversation with Barry to further discuss his inspiring odyssey.

In May last year, 25-year-old Barry embarked on a four-month, 4,000km bike journey from the West African nation of Guinea to Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, seeking admission. Unable to afford a flight, he pedaled through challenging regions facing the risk of jihadist attacks and military coups.

Despite facing unjust detentions in Burkina Faso and Togo, Barry’s fortunes changed in Chad after a journalist shared his story online. Generous individuals then funded his flight to Egypt after they heard about his plight. Upon arriving in Cairo, Barry received a university offer for Islamic studies, subsequently transitioning to engineering, along with a full scholarship.

Recounting the phone call from Smith, Barry said he was still in shock.

“When I saw him, I was confused in my head, because I had seen that man before,” the student said.

“Then I remember – it’s Will Smith! Wow… I used to watch his films. I didn’t know whether to run or to cry. I was sat on a chair in front of Will Smith!”

In their conversation, Smith shared with Barry the inspirational message that “when you commit to a journey, the universe conspires to help you,” referencing a quote by author Paulo Coelho.

The video captures a moment where a bicycle and a laptop are given to the student, and Smith further extends support by providing vouchers for flights, enabling him to either visit his family in Guinea or have them visit him.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 5, 2024


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