MANSA MUSA: The wealthiest man that ever lived

Forbes magazine recently released the list of the wealthiest people in the world, and as expected, the usual suspects are on the list. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos still holds the top spot globally, while Aliko Dangote is the richest African. While we marvel at their wealth and work towards becoming billionaires one day, we should not forget that the richest man ever in the world was an African. Yes, scratch that! Mansa Musa, the King of the Malian empire in the 1330s, is estimated to have been worth about 400 billion dollars.


Isn’t that incredible? The current richest man in our era, Jeff Bezos, is worth $177 billion. Doesn’t this make you proud to be African? I can recall learning about Mansa Musa in history class in secondary school while we studied the history of the great empires of Africa. The Malian Empire was one of the great empires of West Africa. Recently I decided to do a bit of research on Mansa Musa on the internet, and I found some documented articles on the man. Mansa Musa lived in the 14th century (about 1280 – about 1337). The part of his story that I find most remarkable is the Pilgrimage of the King to Mecca between 1324 -1325.


According to research:

“His procession reportedly included 60,000 men, including 12,000 slaves who each carried 4 lb (1.8 kg) of gold bars and heralds dressed in silks who bore gold staffs, organized horses, and handled bags. Musa provided all necessities for the procession, feeding the entire company of men and animals. Those animals included 80 camels that carried 50–300 lb (23–136 kg) of gold dust. Musa gave the gold to the poor he met along his route. Musa gave to the cities he passed on the way to Mecca, including Cairo and Medina, and traded gold for souvenirs. It was reported that he built a mosque every Friday.”


That’s a whole lot of money! It was reported that due to the large volume of gold distributed by Mansa Musa in every city that he entered during the pilgrimage journey, the economy of each town collapsed because gold was rendered valueless. In economics, the value of a commodity is determined by the item’s availability, so due to the massive volume of gold distributed by the King, the value of gold dropped.


What would you do if you had a quarter of Mansa Musa’s wealth? What would I do if I were to receive a phone call today informing me that after detailed research, my lineage has been traced to that of Mansa Musa and that I have been chosen to inherit his wealth?


I will retire from work and sail on a luxurious yacht worldwide for the rest of my life. I will probably buy off the whole of Nigeria and make myself president for life (Just kidding). I will become a philanthropist, dishing out money for the poor and vulnerable people around the world. I will invest in Creative arts, health, technology, education in Africa…..the options are limitless!


Honestly, the first thing I would do is seek financial advice on what to do with my newfound wealth. While the era of Mansa Musa has passed, I believe we can still create enormous wealth in Africa because the continent is richly endowed with massive mineral and human resources.

If you had a wealth of Mansa Musa, what would you do with it?

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