In 2023, Mamadou Safayou Barry made headlines with an incredible 4,000-km trek across Africa to reach university. As a result of his inspiring adventure, he received an unexpected call from A-lister Will Smith. The “Men in Black star,” known for his lead roles in numerous blockbusters, expressed deep admiration for Barry’s efforts during a video call to Cairo, where the student is currently studying.
In a short film uploaded to Smith’s YouTube channel, Barry appeared shocked and elated to be chatting with the movie star.
“When I first heard Mamadou’s story, I couldn’t believe it. Trekking across seven countries on a bike? I appreciate Mamadou taking the time to sit with me and talk about his inspiring journey,” Smith wrote in the caption. Smith gifted Barry a new bike and a laptop, stating, ‘I want the world to hear your story.’ Overwhelmed with gratitude, he later exclaimed, “I don’t know how to thank you!”
Smith’s publicity team reached out to the BBC in September after the story of Barry’s odyssey was published, indicating that it had deeply moved the actor.
In May 2023, the 25-year-old Barry embarked on his journey from Guinea to Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University, hopeful for acceptance. Unable to afford a flight, he spent four months cycling through Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger, and Chad, facing unjust arrests and detentions in Burkina Faso and Togo along the way.
Barry’s fortunes changed upon reaching Chad, where a journalist interviewed him and shared his story online. This prompted some good Samaritans to fund a flight to Egypt for him. Upon arriving in Cairo, he received a university placement initially for Islamic studies, later transitioning to engineering, along with a full scholarship. Smith also contributed vouchers to assist Barry in purchasing flights either back to Guinea to visit his family or for his family to visit him.”