Mansa Musa: The Richest Man In History

mansa musa

Few historical figures have sparked as much interest as Mansa Musa, the 14th-century king of the Mali Empire in West Africa. When people think of the world’s richest people, names that spring to mind include Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Aliko Dangote. But going back in time, there existed men whose riches and wealth surpassed those of the modern billionaires of recent times. One of them is Mansa Musa, the emperor who is regarded as the richest man in history. He literally littered the floors of countries with his gold when he lived. Although it is said that he is the richest man to have ever lived because of his enormous wealth and magnificence in history, the extent of his wealth remains unknown.

Mansa Musa, whose full name was Musa Keita I, was born in Niani, a tiny settlement in modern-day Mali, approximately in 1280. He belonged to the Keita dynasty, which, at its height, governed the Mali Empire. Although Mansa Musa’s actual early life circumstances are not well known, numerous tales and oral traditions shed light on his upbringing and background. Mansa Musa was a devoted Muslim, and the Arab academics and traders who had been to the Mali Empire had persuaded his family to join him in accepting Islam. His worldview was significantly shaped by Islam, which also had an impact on the journey he made to Mecca that would come to define his life. Mansa Musa obtained an education appropriate for his age as a young man.

After the demise of Abu Bakr II, who set out on a disastrous trip across the Atlantic Ocean in pursuit of new lands, Mansa Musa rose to power. Mansa Musa succeeded Abu Bakr II and became the Mali Empire’s tenth Mansa after his departure. This position came with an already flourishing empire flowing with salt, gold, and ivory. Mansa Musa’s attention was drawn to trade by the abundance of salt, gold, and ivory. He kept building up a sizable fortune for Mali under his leadership and guidance.

His pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj displayed his riches to the fullest and for all to see. He rode on a lavishly adorned camel, accompanied by courtiers and guards, banners, and flags, with musicians and poets entertaining crowds along the way. The procession contained caravans of gold, which were judiciously distributed as the procession advanced from village to village. This pilgrimage left a lasting effect on the economies of many of the regions he passed through. While the sudden influx of gold caused inflation in some areas, it had a positive impact on trade and commerce in others.

On the same pilgrimage, Mansa Musa expanded his domain to the southernmost point of the Sahara Desert along the Niger River by acquiring the province of Gao inside the Songhai kingdom. He would later have an empire that included Mali as well as the modern-day nations of Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Mauritania. He was a philanthropist. He used his wealth to build schools, mosques, and libraries in Gao and Timbuktu.

Mansa Musa possesses a legacy comparable to that of the legendary Black Panther, not only for his ability to harness abundant natural resources but also for his transformative impact on the growth and advancement of the towns he influenced. Determining the exact magnitude of his wealth during his lifetime remains a considerable challenge.

The exact year Mansa Musa died is not exactly known. While some historical books say he died in 1337, others claim it was in 1332. After his death, his sons reigned in his stead. Mansa Musa’s reputation as the wealthiest person in history serves as evidence of the vast potential that exists on the continent of Africa and its rich historical past.


Oke Oluwadamilola


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