How rich was Mansa Musa?
At the beginning of the 14th century, Mansa Musa was the ruler of a prosperous kingdom in West Africa: the Mali Empire. As such, he had access to so much gold and salt (which was very valuable at the time) that he is now regarded as one of the richest people of all time. Because he was extremely generous on a pilgrimage, he even triggered hyperinflation. The former cherished Mansa Musa’s net worth was € 325 billion.
This is how Mansa Musa came to be rich
Mansa Musa is now considered one of the richest people who have ever lived and would put the richest people in the world today in the shade. When he became king of the Mali Empire in western Africa at the beginning of the 14th century (in 1307 or 1312), it had great wealth thanks to its favorable location on the Trans-Sahara Route. The kingdom generated imposing income through taxes on merchandise, and with it Mansa Musa a huge fortune. In addition Mali had huge gold deposits that Mansa Musa knew how to use to build up his private fortune. In addition, his country mined large amounts of salt, which was an extremely valuable currency in sub-Saharan Africa at the time.
Musa became king of the Mali Empire around 1312 after his predecessor Abubakari II abdicated to go on a research trip. With this, Musa took over the title of ruler Mansa. When he embarked on an eight-month pilgrimage to Mecca from November 1324, he gained fame throughout North Africa and the Arab world. Because he traveled with a huge following of around 60,000 people. This included around 12,000 slaves, each of whom carried 1.8 kilograms of gold in the form of bars. The 80 camels accompanying the train were each loaded with up to 136 kilograms of gold dust. The king not only fed and looked after his entire entourage, but also gave gold to all the poor people he saw along the way. He also regularly bought in the markets and paid in gold. The merchants took advantage of the generosity and called exorbitant prices – which Mansa Musa and his entourage readily paid.
Hyperinflation in North Africa
The generous handling of gold that Mansa Musa displayed ensured that the precious metal in North Africa lost massive amounts of its exchange value. The Egyptian dinar quickly lost a quarter of its value and only reached its old level twelve years later On the way back, Musa found himself in financial difficulties because most of his gold was used up. To continue his journey home, he had to borrow money.
Great contribution to education in Mali
On his way back to the Mali Empire, Musa incorporated the city of Timbuktu into the Mali Empire and subsequently made it a cultural and economic center of Africa and Islam. Numerous scholars and architects from the Arab region who accompanied him on his return from Mecca, he had schools and mosques built in his kingdom and the education system expanded.
The beginning of the end of the kingdom
Mansa Musa is one of the richest people in history, but still surpasses Jakob Fugger, who is considered the richest person of all time. Mansa Musa probably died around 1332 or 1337 after ruling for around 25 years. His son Magha became his heir to the throne. Disputes between his successors and the members of former ruling families finally ushered in the fall of the Mali Empire at the end of the 14th century.
Cover picture: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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