Here is how the astute West African Emperor Mansa Musa Became the Richest Person in History

FACE2FACE AFRICA April 26, 2023
An artist's modern interpretation of Mansa Musa, ruler of Mali in the 1300s. Image: Illustration By Tim O'Brien

Mansa Musa, the emperor of the Mali Empire, was widely considered the richest person in history. His wealth was so immense that it was impossible to accurately quantify. However, his story of how he acquired his fortune is not just a tale of opulence, but also of determination, resourcefulness, and shrewdness.

Born in 1280 in the small village of Niani, Mansa Musa was the grandson of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire. Upon his grandfather’s death, Mansa Musa ascended to the throne at the age of 25. He was determined to expand his kingdom’s power and influence, and he set his sights on the lucrative trans-Saharan trade routes.

Mansa Musa was able to secure control of several important trade cities, including Timbuktu and Gao. He imposed high taxes on all trade passing through these cities, and he also controlled the production of gold and salt, two of the most valuable commodities of the time. By monopolizing the trade of these commodities, Mansa Musa became incredibly wealthy.

But it wasn’t just his control of trade that made him so rich. Mansa Musa was also an astute investor. He used his wealth to build numerous mosques, universities, and libraries throughout his kingdom. He also sponsored the education of his citizens and sent them to study in North Africa and the Middle East. This investment in education and infrastructure not only improved the lives of his people but also created a favorable environment for trade and commerce.

In 1324, Mansa Musa made a famous pilgrimage to Mecca, where he stunned the world with his wealth. According to accounts from the time, he traveled with a caravan of 60,000 men, including 12,000 slaves, each carrying four pounds of gold. Mansa Musa spent so much gold during his journey that he caused inflation in the cities he visited. His wealth was so immense that it was said to have disrupted the economy of Cairo for years.

Mansa Musa’s wealth was not just a product of his control of trade or his investment in education and infrastructure. He was also a skilled diplomat, forging alliances with neighboring kingdoms and trading partners. He was a devout Muslim, and he used his faith to create connections with other Muslim leaders throughout the world.

Mansa Musa’s wealth and influence extended far beyond the borders of his kingdom. He was a symbol of African power and prosperity, and his legacy is still felt today. His story is a testament to the power of determination, resourcefulness, and shrewdness in the pursuit of wealth and success.

Last Edited by:iboateng Updated: April 26, 2023


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