When thinking about Africa, what comes in most people’s minds is slavery, colonialism, poverty, racism, and all the evil we can think of. Well by the end of this article your view on the black continent will surely change. This article is all about a man whose accomplishments, represent a cornerstone is changing the African narrative. It is all about Mansa Musa, a Malian emperor, who is listed among the richest human being who ever lived, above big names such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. He reigned in the 14th century and accomplished so much.
So what are the 10 most interesting facts about the life and accomplishments of Mansa Musa?
1. He was worth approximately $400 billion
This incredible wealth is literally the combined wealth of the top three richest people in the world at the time this article is being written. Mansa Musa had at the time of his reign so many assets under his control. He was even named ‘Lord of the mines’ because of his control over the gold. His empire was also very vast and represented an international trade station for traders from all over the world, creating huge income from taxes and trade of essential commodities such as salt. His $400 net worth is based on estimation. According to Time magazine: “There’s really no way to put an accurate number on his wealth.”
2. His gold donation on the way to Mecca created a gold recession for 12 years
Mansa Musa was also known for his incredible generosity. Throughout his journey to Mecca between 1324 and 1325, he gave a lot of gold to poor people and also exchanged gold against souvenirs. He gave so much gold in the cities of Cairo, Medina, and Mecca, that the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal significantly. Prices of goods and wares became greatly inflated. This lasted for about twelve years.
3. Conquered 24 cities and reigned on over 400 cities in all
Likewise many emperors and rulers of his time, the great Malian leader was very involved in expanding his territory. In his time Mansa Musa conquered great territories such as the Songhai empire capital Gao. He was also controlling territories that we now know as Ghana, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, and Mauritania.
4. His pilgrimage convoy to Mecca took two years with 60,000 people
In order to fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam, Mansa Musa as a pious Muslim made a 4,000-mile pilgrimage to Mecca. For his rank and power at the time such a long journey must be unforgettable for whoever encounters him on his journey. TED-Ed writer Jessica Smith says:
“Not one to travel on a budget, he brought a caravan stretching as far as the eye could see.”
5. His pilgrimage convoy included 12,000 slaves who transported approximately 30,000kg of Gold
Mansa Musa’s journey to Mecca is probably the most impressive one in terms of transported wealth throughout history. Being an emperor on such vast territories gave him control over both the huge number of human beings in his kingdom and the gold mines. Archives depict that each slave was approximately transporting 1.8kg of gold bars and between 23 and 136 kg of gold were also transported by the 80 camels in his historical convoy.
6. He gave gold to build a mosque in almost every city visited on his way to Mecca
Despite his massive wealth and power, Mansa Musa was also known for his uncanny devotion to Islam and the expansion of the Islamic doctrine throughout the world. Every Friday on his journey we would make a stop in a town and give gold for the construction of a new mosque
7. The circumstances and time of his death are still debated
Looking at the reigns of his successors, son Mansa Maghan (allegedly ruled from 1337 to 1341), followed by older brother Mansa Suleyman (recorded rule from 1341 to 1360), and Musa had 25 years of rule, making his death date of death 1337. Other archives declare Musa planned to abdicate the throne to his son Maghan, but he died soon after he returned from Mecca in 1325.
8. His empire was so big that it could take more than 4 months to travel from one end to the other.
When you have total control over combined territories such as Ghana, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, and Mauritania, it is very clear that you have a huge empire. Travels back in these days were mostly done by walk, so it is quite easy to believe that it could take four months to move from on end to the other in Mansa Musa’ s empire.
9. He founded the University and the mosque of Timbuktu which are still standing today
Archives access that Mansa Musa traveled through the cities of Timbuktu and Gao on his way to Mecca, and incorporated them in his empire in 1925. He had a workforce made up of architects from Spain and Cairo to build his grand palace in and the great Djinguereber Mosque that still stands today. The University of Sankore in Timbuktu was restaffed under Musa’s reign with jurists, astronomers, and mathematicians. The university became a center of reference for studies in Timbuktu and neighboring cities.
10. His massive wealth was squandered in only 2 generations
There are chances that you have heard stories of rich kids squandering the heritage of their late parents or ancestors. Well, in the years following Mansa Musa’s death, it only took two generations to disperse his immense wealth. They failed to protect the family worth just two generations down the line when the empire was overturned in the civil war and conquered by invading foreign nations.
Now you probably have a more than average understanding of the life of Mansa Musa, a man whose life is literally proof that Africa’s story is also made of greatness.