When you think about who the richest person to have lived on this earth you might think about the likes of Jeff Bizos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, The Rockerfellers, The Rothchilds but what you might not be aware of is the fact that the richest man to ever live actually lived in one of Africa’s poor countries Mali.
According to Time Magazine West African King Mansa Musa Keita is the richest man to have ever lived whose wealth was incomprehensible. According to the magazine “there is no way to put an accurate number on his wealth.”
Who was Mansa Musa?
Musa was the tenth Mansa or emperor who was born in 1280 and died in 1337, having conquered over 24 cities in territories that include Ghana, Mali, Mauritania. His great-uncle Sundiata Keita founded the Malian Empire.
He was married to Inari Kunate and had a son Maghan Musa who eventually succeeded him.
Mansa Musa was Mali’s ruler in the 1300s and is estimated to have had amassed a net worth of around $400 billion is today’s money.
His rise to power…
Musa served under Mansa Abubakari and was deputized as his second in command. When Abubakari decided to explore the other side of the Altantic Ocean and didn’t come back, Musa assumed the reigns of the kingdom.
According to some historians his predecessor Abu-Bakr was fascinated with the idea of exploring what was beyond the Atlantic Ocean and embarked on a fateful expedition with a fleet of 2000 ships.
Mansa Musa rose to lead the Mali empire in 1312 his empire ruled parts of modern day Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Chad, Guinea and Mauritania.
How did Mansa Musa get rich?
Mansa Musa got his wealth primarily from trading gold and salt which was in abundance in West Africa during that time. The Mali kingdom sat on one of the biggest and richest gold mines in the world.
As the emperor he had unlimited access to the region’s natural resources, and his kingdom had major trading centers which dealt with gold and other goods.
His pilgrimage to Mecca…
His wealth and grandeur was fully displayed when he took a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 with a procession of over 60 000 men, with 12 000 of them carrying four pound gold bars each. The entourage was clad in the finest gold brocade and Persian silk, it was truly a sight to behold.
Mansa Musa gave away gold to the poor that he encountered during his pilgrimage, and this is reported to have caused gold value decline in Egypt when he gave away considerable amounts of gold during his 3 months stay there.
This generous gold giveaway from Mansa Musa in Egypt made gold devalued due to prices of goods in Cairo, Medina and Mecca being highly inflated.
On his way back he tried to rectify the gold devaluation that he had caused by borrowing it back from Egyptian lenders at high interest rates and removing it from circulation.
Notable historical figures such as al-Umari visited Egypt 12 years after Musa had left and recounted how the people of Cairo spoke highly of him.
Mansa Musa’s Legacy…
His great wealth literally put him on the map, and was depicted on the Catalan Atlas 1375 map sitting on a throne holding a gold bar symbolizing his great wealth.
During his reign he is credited to have built many libraries, mosques, universities, artisans and this led to the rise of Timbuktu as one of the leading cities in the world during that time.
On his return from Mecca he brought along various Islamic scholars and architects who helped design and build his famous Djinguereber mosque.
After his death at the age of 57 he was succeeded by his son Maghan and his rich legacy has lingered for generations to this day.
Subsequent family disputes, civil wars eventually led to the depletion of his wealth after his death and as they say the rest was history.