Mansa Kanku Musa, the richest man of all times

Mansa Kankan Moussa Illustration de Barbara Higgins Bond pour Anheuser Busch
Kanku Musa Keita, Mansa (Emperor) of Mali
Illustration by Barbara Higgins Bond for Anheuser Busch

When the very rich and powerful empire of Mali wanted to overcome the sea borders in the 56th century of the African era, it equipped 200 ships filled with provisions in order to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The operation ended in failure for only one captain returned. The Mansa (emperor) Abubakari Keita II decided to try another expedition; he equipped 2000 ships and took himself the head of the flotilla. One doesn’t know if Abubakari reached America but Christopher Columbus himself testifies with material evidences of the important commercial relations between Africa and America in his lifetime. Kanku Musa became then Mansa in 5548 of our era (1312 A.D) substituting his elder brother Abubakari II who went to America.

Kanku Musa is above all known for his incredible fortune and his important reforms within the Empire. According to a study by a specialist of fortunes Celebrity Networth, supported by almost all the serious magazines of the world, Kankan Moussa is the richest man the world has ever had, with a fortune evaluated at $400 000 000 000, what is six times the current Bill Gates fortune and five times and a half the Mexican Carlos Slim’s, the richest man of the planet. The empire of Mali founded by Sundjata Keita was certainly at that time the richest country in the world and reflects well the economic situation of the whole Africa on the eve of the European slave trade and the acceleration of the Arabian slave trade.

Mansa Kankan Illustration d'Angus McBride
Kanku Musa
Illustration by Angus McBride

Mansa Kanku Musa effectuated the journey for the pilgrimage of Mecca with 100 camels, each camel loaded with 300 pounds of gold, 500 servants carrying 4 pounds of gold each, thousands of his subjects and his great royal spouse accompanied by her 500 servants. He offered so much gold on the road to Cairo and then in Mecca that he brought down the exchange rate of this metal on the markets and bankrupted the Egyptian economy for 10 years. He ran out of money because of his costly lifestyle and he had to borrow some for his journey home. The eastern fantasy kept for a long time the souvenir of the sumptuous visit of the Negro king; the popular legend about the extreme wealth of Africa was like this reinforced.

The construction of the Gao’s and Timbuktu’s mosques, were wrongly attributed to an Arab architect that Kanku Musa would have brought from his journey. Yet, as demonstrated by Cheikh Anta Diop, it is an abusive interpretation of the documents. Plus, the Malian architecture presents characteristic features of the Black continent with its pyramidal style, inherited from Egypt and from Nubia which does not obey to the Arab architectural norms. The Kamits (Blacks) are then at the origin of the Mali’s architecture set up with their own intrinsic tools. The Mansa developed education and trade. Jenne, Timbuktu, and Gao became the trade and cultural centers and the intellectual production – especially literary – ousted the intellectual production of North Africa.

Kankan Moussa Illustration de Khephra Burns, édité par Leo et Diane Dillon
Kanku Musa
Illustration by Khephra Burns

Kanku Musa extended the empire, taking it to its height on the territorial plan, bringing stability and prosperity. He died in 5573, leaving behind him the image of worldwide known empire for its wealth.

PS : The prestigious American magazine Time confirms that Mansa Kanku Musa was the richest man ever. But they can not estimate his net worth, emphasizing though that the second on the list, Roman emperor  Augustus Caesar, was worth 4600 billions dollars. 

PS 2 : We know today, thanks to the works of the African-Guyanese historian Ivan van Sertima in his book “They Came Before Colombus”, that the Malian people, led by Abubakari II, reached America before Columbus. You can read our article on the subject here 

By: Lisapo ya Kama 

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