Mansa Musa was a wealthy West African ruler who ruled a massive portion of the continent in the 14th century. According to researchers, Musa is considered to be the wealthiest person in history.
Estimated to have been born in the year 1280 or so, Musa Keita I rose to lead the Mali Empire after the disappearance of his predecessor, Abubakari Keita II, presumably at sea. In the royalty hierarchy, an heir is typically named as chief regent while the sultan takes pilgrimage to Mecca or other such duties.
Taking the title Mansa, which roughly translates to “King,” Musa began his 25-year rule in the year 1312. The sprawling lands that he controlled also contained portions of modern-day Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and other nations.
Musa I’s net worth in today’s terms numbers between $400 and $500 billion, just in front of the Rothschild family of Europe and their considerable wealth. The Mali Empire maintained its economy through gold, salt and copper. There was also the nation’s military strength that kept enemies looking to usurp Musa at bay.
To make another comparison, the richest people alive today are Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Mexican telecom boss, Carlos Slim. Respectively, their fortunes are $79 and 77 billion.
Musa was the first West African Muslim leader to make the 4,000-mile journey to the Holy City of Mecca. It is believed that he died in 1332, although it has been debated by some historians.