If you think about who the richest person to have lived on this planet, you might think of the likes of Jeff Bizos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, The Rockerfellers, The Rothchilds, but what you may not be aware of is the fact that the richest man ever lived in one of the poor African countries of Mali.
According to Time Magazine, West African King Mansa Musa Keita is the wealthiest man ever to have existed whose wealth was incomprehensible. According to the paper, “there is no way of putting an exact figure on his fortune.”
Who was Mansa Musa?
Musa was the tenth Mansa or emperor who was born in 1280 and died in 1337, having captured more than 24 cities in the territories of Ghana, Mali and Mauritania. His grand-uncle, Sundiata Keita, founded the Malian Empire.
He was married to Inari Kunate and had a son, Maghan Musa, who eventually became his successor.
Mansa Musa was the ruler of Mali in the 1300s and is estimated to have accrued a net worth of about $400 billion is today’s currency.
His rise to power…
Musa served under Mansa Abubakari and was appointed his second in command. When Abubakari wanted to explore the other side of the Altantic Ocean and did not return, Musa assumed the rule of the kingdom.
According to some historians, his predecessor, Abu-Bakr, was intrigued by the thought of discovering what was beyond the Atlantic Ocean and embarked on a disastrous voyage with a fleet of 2,000 ships.
Mansa Musa rose to rule Mali’s kingdom in 1312 and controlled parts of modern-day Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Mali , Nigeria, Chad, Guinea and Mauritania.
How did Mansa Musa get rich?
Mansa Musa’s riches came mainly from the selling of gold and salt, which was plentiful in West Africa at that period. The kingdom of Mali stood on one of the largest and wealthiest gold mines in the world.
As emperor, he had unrestricted access to the natural resources of the region, and his kingdom had major trade centers dealing with gold and other products.
His pilgrimage to Mecca…
His wealth and excellence was clearly evident when he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 with a procession of more than 60 000 men, 12 000 of whom were carrying four pounds of gold bars each. The entourage were dressed in the finest brocade of gold and Persian silk, it was truly a sight to behold.
Mansa Musa gave gold to the poor that he had met during his pilgrimage, and this is said to have caused a decrease in the value of gold in Egypt when he gave away substantial quantities of gold during his three-month stay there.
This generous gift of gold from Mansa Musa in Egypt devalued gold due to the high price of goods in Cairo, Medina and Mecca.
On his way back, he tried to correct the gold devaluation he had created by borrowing it back from Egyptian lenders at high interest rates and withdrawing 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 a lot about him.
Mansa Musa’s Legacy…
His great wealth literally put him on the map, and he was seen on the map of the Catalan Atlas in 1375, sitting on a throne with a gold bar symbolizing his great wealth.
During his reign, he was credited with building several libraries, mosques, universities, craftsmen, and this contributed to the rise of Timbuktu as one of the world’s leading cities during that period.
On his return from Mecca, he brought together numerous Islamic scholars and architects who helped design and create his famous Djinguereber mosque.
He was succeeded by his son Maghan after his death at the age of 57, and his rich heritage has lasted for generations to this day.
Subsequent family conflicts, civil wars inevitably contributed to the loss of his estate after his death and, as they claim, the rest was history.