History has it that richest man to ever live is Mansa Musa. He is the ninth Mensa of the Mali Empire who ascended the throne in 1312 after his predecessor Abu-Bakr failed to return from his fatal voyage.
Mansa Abu-Bakr had gone on an expedition with about a fleet of 2000 ships, thousands of men and women to explore the Atlantic Ocean but no one returned.
During his reign, Mali was one of the richest kingdoms of Africa, and Mansa Musa was among the richest individuals in the world. The ancient kingdom of Mali spread across parts of modern-day Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. Mansa Musa developed cities like Timbuktu and Gao into important cultural centers.
Mansa Musa inherited a kingdom that was already wealthy, but his work in expanding trade made Mali the wealthiest kingdom in Africa. His riches came from mining significant salt and gold deposits in the Mali kingdom. Elephant ivory was another major source of wealth.
When Mansa Musa went on a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca in 1324 C.E., his journey through Egypt caused quite a stir. The kingdom of Mali was relatively unknown outside of West Africa until this event. Arab writers from the time said that he travelled with an entourage of tens of thousands of people and dozens of camels, each carrying 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of gold. While in Cairo, Mansa Musa met with the Sultan of Egypt, and his caravan spent and gave away so much gold that the overall value of gold decreased in Egypt for the next 12 years.
After his return from Mecca, Mansa Musa began to revitalize cities in his kingdom. He built mosques and large public buildings in cities like Gao and, most famously, Timbuktu. Timbuktu became a major Islamic university center during the 14th century due to Mansa Musa’s developments. Mansa Musa brought architects and scholars from across the Islamic world into his kingdom, and the reputation of the Mali kingdom grew.
Mansa Musa died in 1337 and was succeeded by his sons. His skillful administration left his empire well-off at the time of his death, but eventually, the empire fell apart. Well after his death, Mansa Musa remained engrained in the imagination of the world as a symbol of fabulous wealth. However, his riches are only one part of his legacy, and he is also remembered for his Islamic faith, promotion of scholarship, and patronage of culture in Mali.