The battle for the title of the world’s richest man is so removed from most of our realities that it is almost trivial. Every now and then, there’s a new crowned ‘richest man in the world’ and otherwise we hear the same names constantly swirling around in the mix. Currently the crowned richest man in the world is Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon who is worth an estimated $177 billion. But you’d be surprised to know that he isn’t the richest man of all time, just modern history. The richest man of all time is Mansa Musa, the fourteenth century emperor of the Mali empire. He was the 10th mansa which means sultan or emperor to rule and in his 25 years as ruler, Mansa Musa made sizable expansions to the Malian empire. His conquests included countries now known as Senegal, Niger, Ivory Coast and more.
The secret to his wealth? Having such a large empire afforded him access to profitable resources like gold and salt. Under his reign, the Mali empire accounted for almost half of the world’s gold. Although it is hard to imagine such unfathomable wealth, owning almost half of the world’s gold reserve gives a pretty rough idea, historians have even theorised that if he were living today he would be worth $400 billion in modern currency, just under twice the wealth of Jeff Bezos.
Aside for his financial success, he was known for the devotion to the Islamic faith, regularly going on pilgrimages (Hajj) to Mecca, the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad and Islam. On his famous journeys, he would be accompanied by 60,000 people, 21,000 kilograms of gold, 100 elephants and 80 camels. Whilst he was a somewhat flamboyant leader, he was also known for his generosity, giving so much gold away on his pilgrimage that the value of gold fell drastically!
As far as memorable historical leaders go, he definitely makes the list! He is credited with starting the education tradition in West Africa, and well, you can’t beat being the richest man to have ever lived!