By Amin Kef (Ranger)
The first leg of the ongoing Budapest-Bamako Rally 2024, which commenced in Hungary on January 26, comprising participants who are now heading to the pristine and touristic scenes of Sierra Leone are expected arrive on the 11th February, 2024 at Bureh Beach where a Beach Carnival will be organized in their honour and later proceed to the Finish Line on Gigibonta Restaurant Car Park, Lumley Beach in Sierra Leone on the 12th February, 2024. Another batch of participants will depart Hungary on the 12th February, 2024 and are expected to reach Sierra Leone on the 4th March, 2024.
Participants will go through a vast array of countries along the designated route to traverse 9000km from the heart of Europe to reach the finishing line on Gigibonta, thereby covering two continents and 10 countries.
According to the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, the event will mark the world’s largest amateur rally and will return to Sierra Leone twice in this year, 2024. The Tourism Ministry further reiterated that Sierra Leone will play host to the first batch of the Budapest-Bamako-Freetown Rally finish line 2024 event from the 11th to 12th February, 2024.
Dubbed as the: “Budapest-Bamako-Freetown Challenge” the Ministry highlighted that the event is the world’s largest amateur vehicular rally as well as Africa’s biggest humanitarian event.
According to the erudite Minister of Tourism, Nabeela Tunis, “The rally comprises 670 participants including three (3) Sierra Leoneans with over 300 vehicles arriving in Sierra Leone through Kambia on the 11th February, 2024 arriving at Bureh Beach where a Beach Carnival will be organized in their honour.”
She disclosed how on Monday 12th February, the teams will drive through Waterloo, Up Gun, Kissy Road, Goderich Street, Rokel Street, Siaka Stevens Street, Sanders Street, St. John, Savage Street, Congo Cross, Wilkinson Road, and Lumley Beach Road and arrive at the Finish Line, Gigibonta Restaurant car park, Lumley Beach where the Hon. Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, the Hungarian Consul and other State functionaries will receive them and deliver statements.
The result-oriented Tourism Minister informed that the second batch of 194 Budapest-Bamako- Freetown rally participants will depart Hungary on 12th February and will arrive in Freetown on the 4th March, 2024.
She revealed how the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs has embarked on a One Year “Tourism for All Campaign” and the theme for this month of February is: “Travel and Hospitality” which resonates with the arrival of the Budapest-Bamako-Freetown Rally adventure tourists to Sierra Leone.
In his words, the Permanent Secretary of the Tourism Ministry, Edward Kwame Yankson, said : “The Budapest-Bamako- Freetown Challenge aims at actualizing His Excellency the President, Dr. Julius Maada Bio’s vision of making Sierra Leone an attractive tourist destination, create a platform for cultural exchange, facilitate foreign direct investment and provide job opportunities.
The Honorary Consul of Hungary to Sierra Leone, Jihad N Eter, thanked President Julius Maada Bio and the Minister of Tourism, Nabeela Tunis, for making it possible for Sierra Leone to host this year’s event. He especially commended President Bio for his efforts made so far in revamping the Tourism industry.
The Consul pointed out how the Tourism Minister’s vision for Sierra Leone to be the hub of tourism and one of the best touristic destinations in the world is extremely encouraging.
He intimated that since 2018 when he assume office as the Honorary Consul of Hungary to Sierra Leone, his office has been working diligently to further strengthen the already existing friendly relations between the Republic of Sierra Leone and Hungary.
Jihad N Eter expressed delight when emphasizing that the Government of Hungary has been committed in offering fifty (50) scholarships, through the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, every year to Sierra Leonean students to study in Hungary in various fields of study, saying such a commitment is borne out of a willingness to support the country in its drive to enhance Quality Education.
He disclosed how forty-four (44) Sierra Leonean students were successful in the 2022 application to study in Hungary, another 47 in the 2023-2024 academic year further disclosing how 760 participants have so far applied for the program this year with 50 students to be chosen based on certain criteria for the 2024-2025 Academy Hungary scholarship. The Consul underscored how the Hungarian Government plans to continue offering the aforementioned scholarships for an additional two years.
The Consul also mentioned that last year the Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister visited Sierra Leone accompanied by representatives of thirty business companies in Hungary. He said they held a business meeting at the Radisson Blu Hotel with local business personalities which was very fruitful adding that the Hungarian business personalities have shown keen interest and are eager to participate in any planned future Trade Fair that will be organized in Sierra Leone.
He also mentioned that there are ongoing negotiations related to the implementation of the Koidu-Sembehun Water Project that will supply water to the entire Kono District revealing how such a development was brought about through the collaborative efforts with the Ministry of Water Resources and Hungary via the Hungarian-Exim Bank among other interventions.
Andrew Szabo, the Director of Budapest-Bamako Rally, in an excited mood stated that Sierra Leone is a natural choice for the finish line as the Government and people of Sierra Leone, in the past, have been very hospitable with the country putting a premium on the Tourism industry. He expressed profound pleasure to be in Sierra Leone disclosing how there are future plans for more finish line events to be held in Sierra Leone.
It must be noted that what makes this Budapest-Bamako- Freetown Challenge very exceptional is the ongoing participation of an all-Sierra Leonean team, of a trio, that comprises a businessman in the Petroleum Sector, Ibrahim Cole (IB Cole), a renowned hip-hop artist, Benjamin Menelik George, popularly known as Drizilik and another entrepreneur, Mohamed Ibrahim Waritay (Med Iye). The three joined forces to form Team Puzzle Pieces and their mission is geared towards supporting a charity of the same name by raising funds and awareness for Autism.
Riding Car 61, the trio, Drizilik, IB Cole and Med-Iye are riding for autism awareness. The first leg of their journey is a 900km drive from Budapest to Milan.
Puzzle Pieces is the name of IB Cole’s autism support charity, which he co-founded with his wife Nalla. IB’s vision is to create a specialized autism resource center to support families and educate teachers and the community on how to support people with autism.