Whenever we think of rich people, our mind immediately thinks of the rich industrialists, billionaires like Bill Gates, Carlos Sim and some Arab Sheikhs. Forget today’s tech billionaires, Mansa Musa, the 14th century African king of the Mali Empire, is said to have amassed a fortune that possibly made him one of the wealthiest people who ever lived. He was born in Mali in 1280s.
Musa Keita mostly referred to Mansa Musa conquered around 24 cities. And during his reign, Mali was the largest producer of gold. “There’s no way to put his wealth in accurate numbers”, said Jacob of Time Magazine.
On his 25 years of reign from 1312- 1337, when Europe was struggling within themselves due to civil war and lack of natural resources, he flourished his empire due to abundant natural resources. The empire was blessed with valuable resources like gold and salt. And during his rule, the already prosperous empire grew to a portion of West Africa and parts of Sahara Desert. As the empire grew, the living standard of the people and economic standard of Musa also grew.
In 1324, the world first witnessed the extent of his wealth when he took his pilgrimage to Mecca. He brought a caravan stretching as far as the eye could see. The history describes this extravagant journey where there were ten thousand soldiers, civilians and slaves, 500 heralds bearing gold staffs all dressed in fine silk and many camels and horses bearing an abundance of gold bars. During his journey, he stopped in cities like Cairo and spent massive quantities of gold distributing it to poor people, buying souvenirs. He doesn’t stop there. He had built mosques along the way too. This was a year long journey and by the time he returned his tales of wealth were spread throughout the Mediterranean coast and he places himself in one of the most important maps of Medieval Europe. The map portrayed the king holding a scepter and a glowing gold coin. This explains how Mansa Musa places himself and his empire in the map.
You can imagine how much gold a person can posses and now double the amount, that’s what his wealth accounts to. By controlling the important trade routes between West African Coast and Mediterranean, he established his city Timbuktu as an attraction for Islamic culture and learning. Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim and he first caught the world’s attention in 1324 when he made the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Mansa Musa also established the University of Timbuktu to attract scholars and artists from throughout the Islamic world. Within his Empire, Mansa Musa I encouraged urbanization by funding schools and mosques.
If Musa’s wealth is interpreted in numbers in today’s world, his fortune would worth $440 billion. He would be the richest person of the world beating Carlos Sim, current richest person whose worth is $68 billion.