Hollywood actor, Will Smith has surprised a Guinean man, Mamadou Safayou Barry who cycled across Africa to reach university.
Last year, Barry’s remarkable 4,000km (2,500-mile) journey captured headlines, and in a video call to Cairo, where Barry is currently studying, Smith expressed being “deeply moved” by his efforts. Smith generously gifted him a new bike and a laptop during the call.
Smith learned about Barry’s epic journey from a BBC Instagram post in September. In a short film uploaded to Smith’s YouTube channel, Barry appeared astonished to be speaking with the Men in Black star.
“This is Will Smith!” exclaimed a smiling Barry. “A lot of your films I love.” Expressing his gratitude upon learning about the gifts, Barry said, “I don’t know how to thank you, Wallahi [I swear]! I don’t know how to thank you.”
Smith’s publicity team reached out to the BBC after the story of Barry’s odyssey was published, stating that it had deeply touched the actor. They sought to find a way for Smith to speak to Barry.
In May of the previous year, the 25-year-old Barry embarked on his journey from Guinea to Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University, hoping to secure admission. Unable to afford a flight, he cycled through Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger, and Chad over four months.
Despite facing challenges, such as being detained three times without cause, Barry’s fortune changed when his story was shared online by a journalist in Chad. Good Samaritans subsequently funded a flight to Egypt for him. Upon reaching Cairo, he was offered a university place for Islamic studies and later engineering, along with a full scholarship.
“When you commit to a journey, the universe conspires to help you,” Smith told a delighted Barry, referencing author Paulo Coelho. In the video, someone is seen presenting a bicycle and a laptop to the student as heartfelt gifts.