Mansa Musa was the 10th emperor of a West African kingdom that included all or parts of Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Niger, Chad, and Gambia. Best known for his incomprehensible wealth, he has become a cult figure among Africans who aspire to affluence and influence. But, Mansa Musa was more than just a wealthy monarch from antiquity. He is one of Africa’s greatest leaders, and below are seven reasons why:
He was a patron of education. Mansa Musa revered knowledge. Education in his kingdom was free and encouraged. He invested heavily in books, libraries, and universities, so much so that Timbuktu became a centre of learning, with scholars coming from all over the Islamic world.
He was just. Called by historians “Musa the Magnificent,” he was celebrated for his piety, justice, and enlightenment. Ibn Battuta—renowned Moroccan travel writer who travelled extensively throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East—was so impressed by the peace and security he experienced that he wrote, “There is complete security in their country,” and “Neither traveler nor inhabitant in it has anything to fear from robbers or men of violence.” Criminals feared Mansa Musa; he showed them no mercy.
He amassed great wealth. According to Time magazine, through mining and trade, he became arguably the richest man of all time, with an estimated net worth of $400 billion. He was so rich he could afford to dress his 6,000 slaves in Persian silk.
He was generous. On his pilgrimage to Mecca, Mansa Musa gave away gold to the poor, charitable organizations, and the rulers of the lands he and his entourage crossed. He doled out so much gold on his stop to Cairo, Egypt, that the value of gold went down. It took Cairo’s gold market a decade to recover.
He was a conqueror. Through diplomacy and warfare, he made his kingdom the largest in Africa, as well as one of the largest in the world.
He made his people rich. At a time when Europe was plagued with famine, disease, and warfare, those who visited Mali observed that its inhabitants were rich and happy, owing to Mansa Musa’s celebrated rule.
He was hospitable. Traders always stopped at Mali. According to ancient sources, they knew they would be welcomed, fed, housed, and safe. Mansa Musa had an excellent reputation for being a very kind man.