Mansa Musa was the King of the Mali Empire of West Africa from 1312 to 1327. His kingdom was enormously wealthy and Musa acquired riches beyond belief, thanks to strategic leadership and an empire rich in resources.
Here are 7 things you should know about Mansa Musa:
1. He was the King of the Mali Empire
The Mali Empire is a West African trading empire that grew and held enormous power and influence from the 13th to the 16th century A.D. and stretched across approximately 2,000 miles of land. The empire was founded as a result of an uprising of the people engaged in the gold trade around the area of Ghana.
Map courtesy of Wikipedia
Mansa Mali was the superstar king of this empire, standing out due to his expansion of the kingdom, his accumulation of vast wealth, and his philanthropic behavior and endeavors.
The Mali empire would give its name to the present-day country of Mali in West Africa.
2. He was worth 400 billion dollars
Warren Buffet and Bill Gates look like poor people compared to Mansa Musa. Some clever folks did some research and estimated his worth to be $400 billion. That’s a lot of money, but remember, the Mali empire was rich with resources such as gold, and had control over its distribution.
It’s important to note that he acquired wealth through means beyond just forceful expansion and possession of resources, but also through diplomacy and deals, and his influence in the area.
Here’s the list of history’s wealthiest people.
3. He was a devout Muslim
Musa was a devout Muslim, and much of his fame in the region came about when he went on his pilgrimage to Mecca. The pilgrimage to Mecca is an important part of the religion of Islam, and Musa also used it as a way to advertise his empire’s prosperity to other regions, and develop relationships with them.
There is an account of Musa’s pilgrimage in the Chronicle of the Seeker. “He was determined to travel not only for his own religious fulfillment, but also for recruiting teachers and leaders, so that his realms could learn more of the Prophet’s teachings.” – Mahmud Kati. Musa wanted to share his devotion and strengthen Muslim bonds among his citizens.
And Musa did just that. Some of Musa’s biggest accomplishments were the impressive mosques he built in Africa, with a prominent one still standing today.
4. He was a philanthropist
During Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca, he was carrying large amounts of gold and being accompanied by many servants and escorts. As he passed through the African cities of Cairo and Medina, he would generously give away gold to the poor people he met along the way.
And Musa’s entourage was well taken care of. He provided all of the food and supplies for everyone traveling with him to ensure their comfort and survival.
Musa also left the legacy of education to those who lived in his kingdom. He re-staffed the University of Sankore with scholars, and built schools that would make his population well-educated from the finest Muslim education available.
5. He was a brilliant administrator
Musa was a genius when it came to politics and business. He knew the value of forming relationships and with giving the people what they want. Musa’s success can be attributed to the administrative strategies he employed as much as his kingship and possession of resources that gave him direct power and wealth.
Musa built up the city of Timbuktu, which was a major trading city, with caravan routes to Egypt and trade connections with other cities. Much like modern international economics, the trading networks of the Mali empire allowed for Musa to acquire wealth and influence outside of violent interaction.
6. He constructed great works of architecture
Musa creating a lasting legacy in the world that remains to this day by commissioning the construction of great buildings and works of architecture in Timbuktu and Gao. When he returned from his pilgrimage to Mecca, it was said that he brought back skilled architects from Spain and Egypt to assist in his building projects.
Among his buildings were the great Djinguereber Mosque, and the University of Sankore, which he restaffed with the teachers and scientists he brought from outside Mali.
Photo: Andy Gilham
The mosque in Gao was built with burnt bricks, a brand new new material for West African buildings. And Musa also built a fort in Timbuktu to protect it from destruction by invading armies .
7. He single-handedly devalued gold
Masi’s actions as king of Mali were “the only time recorded in history that one man directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean” – Wikipedia. That’s right, remember when we said he gave gold to people he passed along the way to Mecca? Well Musa’s generosity actually had a negative effect by devaluing gold in the region, thus causing instability in those economies.
But Musa wanted to save the situation, so he borrowed large amounts of gold at high interest from lenders, intending to stimulate the gold market back to where it was.
So now you know 7 interesting things about the “richest man in history”, Mansa Musa.