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 estimated net worth of Mansa Musa was 325 billion euros.
This is how Mansa Musa came to be rich
Mansa Musa is now considered to be 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. Also, Mali had huge gold deposits that Mansa Musa knew how to use to build up his private fortune. His country also 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 about 12,000 slaves, each of whom carried 1.8 kilograms of gold in the form of bars. The 80 camels that accompanied the train were each loaded with up to 136 kilograms of gold dust. The king fed and provided for his entire entourage and gave gold to all the poor people he saw along the way. He also regularly went shopping 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 use of gold that Mansa Musa displayed ensured that the precious metal in North Africa lost massive amounts of its exchange value. The Egyptian dinar lost a quarter of its value within a short time and only reached its old level twelve years later. Musa himself ran into financial difficulties on the way back 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 Mali, Musa incorporated Timbuktu’s city into Mali 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 Mecca’s return, had schools and mosques built in his kingdom and the educational 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 Mali Empire’s fall at the end of the 14th century.