Will Smith surprises Guinea student who biked across Africa

Will Smith surprises Guinea student who biked across Africa
Will Smith

Hollywood megastar Will Smith has made a surprise call to a Guinean man who cycled across Africa to get to university.

Last year, Mamadou Safayou Barry captured the headlines over his 4,000km (2,500 mile) trek.

In a video call to Cairo, where Mr Barry is studying, Smith told him he was "deeply moved" by his efforts and gifted him a new bike and a laptop.

He learnt about the epic trip from a BBC Instagram post last September.

"I want the world to hear your story," the lead in numerous blockbusters said.

On a short film uploaded to Smith's YouTube channel, the student appeared shocked to be talking to the Men in Black star. "This is Will Smith!" a smiling Mr Barry said. "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 said later when he heard about the gifts.

Smith's publicity team had contacted the BBC after the story of Mr Barry's odyssey had been published saying that it had touched the actor. They wanted to see how they could speak to him.

Mamadou Safayou Barry with his bike

Mamadou Safayou Barry pictured last year with the bike that transported him across six countries

Last May, the 25-year-old set off from the West African country of Guinea for Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar University, hoping he would be accepted.

The married father of one could not afford the cost of a flight, so instead got on his bike and took four months to pedal through Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger and Chad.

He travelled through regions where jihadist fighters often stage attacks, and which have seen several military coups.

He was arrested and detained three times for no good reason - twice in Burkina Faso and once in Togo.

However, Mr Barry's luck turned when he reached Chad. A journalist interviewed Mr Barry and posted his story online, prompting some good Samaritans to fund a flight to Egypt for him.

A bike gifted by Will Smith to Mamadou Barry

Barry has been using the bike given to him by Will Smith to travel to university

Once he got to Cairo he was offered a university place, initially for Islamic studies and then onto engineering, and a full scholarship.

Mr Barry told the BBC he was still shocked by Smith's call.

"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!"

During the conversation, Smith told Mr Barry "when you commit to a journey, the universe conspires to help you" - a reference to a quote by author Paulo Coelho.

On the video, someone can be seen wheeling in a bicycle to give to the student, as well has handing him the laptop.

Smith has also donated vouchers so that he can buy flights either back to Guinea to visit his family, or so they can visit him.

Map of the countries Mr Barry cycled through

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