If you are asked to name the richest people you know, you wouldn’t be thinking of Mansa Musa as you would most likely name contemporary billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, and their likes. Should any African make your list, it would be the richest man from the continent, Aliko Dangote, the business magnet from Nigeria in West Africa estimated to be worth $12.4 billion as of September 2021. While all of these fellows have accumulated an enormous wealth that many people wouldn’t make if they spend their entire life working in ten lifetimes, they are often not counted among the richest men who have ever lived.
People counted among the richest men of all time include William The Conqueror, Mir Osman Ali Khan, Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov, and John D Rockefeller respectively estimated to have been worth $229.5 billion, $230 billion, $300 billion, and $341 billion. There is also Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American industrialist, and the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, both of whom have been estimated to be worth $372 billion and $4.6 trillion, respectively. The emperor of India’s Mughal dynasty Akbar I and emperor Shenzong of Song in China, Zhao Xu, are among those whose wealth is incalculable. Mansa Musa also belongs to that category but is often called the wealthiest person in history.
Some Sources Estimates That Mansa Musa Is Worth At Least $450 Million Today
The man considered to be the richest man of all time, according to some sources, would be worth $450 million in today’s world. But various reputable scholars and credible platforms have upheld that there is no way to calculate his wealth while reiterating the claim that he is the richest person in history. Mansa Musa lived from 1280 to 1337 and reigned as emperor of the Mali Empire from 1312 until the time he died. Historians documented that the source of his wealth was the resources of the empire, especially gold and salt. It is said that the empire accounted for almost half of the Old World’s gold. All of it and other valued resources belonged to him as he was the ruler of the empire.
Mansa Musa, according to records mostly culled from Arabic sources, was born into the Keita dynasty and named Musa Keita. As you would easily find, the Keita dynasty happens to be the first royal family recorded in the history of the Mali Empire. Musa was the great nephew of Sundiata Keita, the man considered to be the founder of the empire. Abu-Barka-Keita, the brother of Sundiata Keita, was his grandfather and FagaLaye, his father.
How He Became The Ruler of The Mali Empire
Before he became the ruler of the great Mali Empire, Mansa Musa was said to be the deputy emperor. How he ascended to the throne which he consolidated on to amass his enormous wealth has been a tale left to speculations. But based on what several historical sources related, Musa narrated that he claimed the throne after his predecessor, who has been presumed to be Muhammad ibn Qu, the eight Mansa of the Mali Empire, embarked on a journey he never returned from.
As the story goes, Mansa Musa narrated in Cairo that his predecessor disappeared after he embarked on a quest to explore the Atlantic Ocean. It is written that Muhammad ibn Qu made Musa his deputy and bequeathed him the power to rule the empire until he returned. According to Musa, Muhammad never returned and he was crowned to become his successor. Some historians have suggested that Musa killed his cousin to become Mansa and made up the expedition story but there is no way to authenticate that.
Becoming the emperor of what was considered to be one of the richest empires in the world at the time gave Mansa Musa direct access to the resources and wealth of the kingdom. He made his son Maghan Keita his deputy and they worked together to expand the borders of the empire which translated to more wealth and power.
When he became Mansa, the empire was largely made up of the former Ghana Empire which Mali had subdued. But his quest to build a stronger empire had him conquer more cities and enlarge the coast of his empire. It is said that he subdued and conquered as many as 24 cities and surrounding districts, expanding the Mali Empire’s borders to areas in present-day Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, and Niger.
The Legacy of Mansa Musa and All The Things He’s Remembered For
Scholars believe that Mansa Musa died sometime in 1337. At his time of death, he had ruled the Mali Empire for 25 years. His son, Mansa Magha Keita, who was also his deputy, succeeded him and ruled the empire from 1337 to 1341. Keita was succeeded by his uncle, Mansa Suleyman, his father’s older brother who ruled from 1341 to 1360. Keita and Suleyman struggled to sustain the legacy of Musa and the empire was ultimately subdued by northern invaders.
Regardless, Mansa Musa’s reign and legacy are difficult for history to forget. Disregarding the fact that it is claimed in some quarters that the empire was the largest producer of gold in the world during his reign, there are other notable achievements of Mansa Musa that made him one of the most powerful people of his era. He wasn’t all about the acquisition of wealth. Musa initiated and completed several projects that facilitated industrialization and spread his influence to Europe and Asia.
Below are some of the reasons why he is often named as one of the most powerful and influential rulers in history.
Trade and Economy
The biggest accomplishment of Mansa Musa was making Mali a center for world trade. His influence was so far-reaching that Europe became aware of Mali’s prosperity. This had nations and other prominent kingdoms striving to ally with the empire for trade.
Musa was so powerful and influential that he could make a mess of a nation’s economy. It is said that he caused an inflation crisis in Cario because he gave out so much gold to the poor that the value of gold in Cario crashed, causing the cost of goods to shoot through the roof.
Mansa Musa was committed to the development of his empire and invested so much in infrastructures that he stirred the urban revolution of the Mali Empire. Many famous buildings were constructed during his time, including the great Djinguereber Mosque that still stands to date.
Legend has it that the devoted Muslim went on several pilgrimages to Mecca and would build a mosque at any location he and his men stopped to rest during the course of the journey. It is claimed that he traveled with as many as 60,000 men made up of his slaves, soldiers, and followers. If one must believe everything said about him, then he also traveled with 2,000 camels that carried the gold he gave out to the poor.
Mansa Musa had a great value of education and is credited for establishing the University of Sankore which attracted Islamic scholars, mathematicians, and astronomers. By the end of his reign, the university had become a center of learning with one of the largest libraries in the world.