When you search for the wealthiest people in the world, few – if any – of them will be Black. However, It’s interesting to know that at one point the richest person in the world was a Black king known as Mansa Musa. Here’s what you should know about this fascinating man.
Who Was King Mansa Musa?
According to “Is Mansa Musa the richest man who ever lived?” by Naima Mohamud of BBC Africa, Mansa Musa was born in 1280 into a family of rulers in Mali. When his brother Mansa Abu Bakr II disappeared on an expedition at sea in 1312, he took over the throne. At that point, the Mali kingdom was one of the wealthiest countries in Africa and was comprised of what is now known as Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.
Though the kingdom was already prosperous, it grew exponentially in wealth under Mansa Musa’s rule. During his time from 1312 to 1337, the king expanded the kingdom so that he owned a large quantity of salt and gold. In fact, it’s estimated that he held about half of the world’s gold. He also garnered wealth from ivory that came from elephants.
Mansa Musa didn’t only focus on wealth and trade. In fact, historians show that he built up settlements for his people and brought in educated individuals like architects to transform his towns into intellectual and cultural hubs. In addition, he used his wealth to build schools, libraries, and mosques. Based on his efforts, Timbuktu became known as the heart of education in Africa. People would travel from around the world to study there and the institution became the Sankore University.
Though there’s a lot that remains unknown about Mansa Musa, he’s typically credited with being the beginning of traditional education in West Africa.
So How Much Was He Worth?
While the website, Celebrity Net Worth, estimated that Mansa Musa was worth at least $400 billion, historical economists assert that the number could have been much higher. It’s hard to pinpoint what the king was worth because his wealth wasn’t accurately recorded and he also gave quite a bit of it away. In one instance, he gave away so much gold on a trip to Cairo that it caused the value of the precious metal to fall and crash the country’s economy.
This is a part of our new series – “Hidden Gems in Black History” where we highlight uncommon facts throughout Black history. Join us every day during Black History Month for interesting facts about Black people and places that you likely haven’t heard before!
- MALI, F. O. (2015). Mansa Musa (Kankan Musa). Lifelines in World History: The Ancient World, The Medieval World, The Early Modern World, The Modern World, 182.