AfricaNews

Guinean student cycles to Egypt to attend elite Islamic University

Guinean student, Mamadou Safaiou Barry had dreams to study at a top Islamic university in Egypt, Al-Azhar University. In about 4 months later, he turned those dreams into reality. However, his dreams were first squandered due to expensive flight tickets.

Mamadou Safaiou Barry, a Guinean student travelled by bicycle to attend his dream university, Al-Azhar University. Al-Azhar University is a public university in Cairo, Egypt known as the chief centre for Islamic and Arabic learning in the world.

Because flight tickets to Egypt from Guinea were expensive Mamadou decided to cycle in order to get to his destination.

His main and most reasonable travel route was through the Sahel region. However, with the rising tensions in the Sahel region and the ongoing conflict in Sudan, his journey was made difficult.

Apart from his bicycle, he only carried a change of clothes, some savings, a flashlight and a screwdriver. He passed through six countries: Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger and Chad.

The Sahel region on the African map
The Sahel region on the African map

Throughout his journey, he was detained twice, once in Burkina Faso and once in Togo. He ended up having to pay about 35,000 CFA which is about $56 which was the entirety of his savings.

Mamadou often had to sleep and hide in bushes due to fear of being attacked or having his bicycle stolen. Nevertheless, he gained luck when he arrived in Chad as a local philanthropist who was inspired by his story offered him a direct flight to Egypt.

Mamadou upon his arrival in Egypt, was given a full scholarship. He encourages other students like him saying, “If you have a dream, stay with it and be strong…God will help you.”

His story has placed emphasis on the obstacles West African migrants face almost every year. According to an interview study by the International Organization for Migration(IOM), out of 8,966 interviews about one-third of the respondents faced challenges during their journeys.

About 47% had financial issues, 41% had hunger or thirst issues, 38% had no shelter, 6% experienced attacks and 2% were held against their will.

Mamadou’s story also sheds light on the poor African transportation and the expensive air travel, especially within Africa. As it stands, it is cheaper to fly outside the continent than within it.

One of the main reasons for this is the weak institutional frameworks of regional organizations like the AU and ECOWAS.

Regional bodies in Europe like the European Union, have a much more sophisticated institutional framework hence better regional integration. Through their effective institutional framework, they are able to allow for a smoother process of the free movement of goods, services and people.

For instance, flights from the UK to Spain range from as low as £20 to just over £100 in just under 3 hours. However, flights from Ghana to Nigeria for example range from $500 to $1000 or more.

According to the BBC Business Daily, the International Air Transporation Association(IATA) regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, Kamil al-Awadhi says, “Aviation contributes directly to the GDP in every country. It generates work and it activates the economy,”

If African countries adopted better integration strategies and invested in aviation it could boost Africa’s GDP and create more job opportunities.

While the story of Mamadou is inspiring, it exposes, however, the weak institutional frameworks of African governments and regional organizations. These underlying issues directly impact the African youth and need to be rectified in order to attain a sustainable future.

 

 

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