An African named Mansa Musa remains the wealthiest man that ever lived. He was the tenth emperor of Mali whose wealth has been described as too vast to be imagined—or equalled.
Modern-day financial analysts have tried to quantify his wealth, and they report that his estimated value sits around $400 billion. Considering that the current net worth of the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos is $189.2 billion, it is safe to say that it will take a long time for Musa's record to be beaten.
Born in 1280, the 14th-Century African Emperor of the Malian empire acquired a large part of his wealth from the trade of salt and gold; he controlled more than half of the world's supply at the time.
Musa became Emperor in 1312, taking over from his predecessor, Abu-Bakr II, whom he served as deputy. According to history, Abu-Bakr II went missing on a voyage he took by sea to find the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
Musa's rule came at a time when the economies of European nations were struggling due to civil wars and a lack of resources. During that period, the Mali Empire flourished thanks to ample natural resources like gold and salt.
Under the rule of Musa, the prosperous empire grew to span a sizeable portion of West Africa, from the Atlantic coast to the central trading hub of Timbuktu and parts of the Sahara Desert.
The world got a glimpse of Musa's wealth in 1324 when he set off on a journey to Mecca for his Hajj pilgrimage.
The voyage, which would span an estimated 4,000 miles, was travelled by Musa and a caravan that included tens of thousands of soldiers, slaves and heralds, draped in Persian silk and carrying golden staffs.
Although records of the exact number of people who participated in the voyage are scarce, the elaborate convoy that accompanied Musa marched alongside camels and horses carrying hundreds of pounds of gold.
Of course, this spectacle awed residents of the territories that Musa passed through. The impact of the Malian Emperor on the Egyptian people was felt for more than a decade.
On his voyage, he acquired the territory of Gao within the Songhai kingdom, extending his territory to the southern edge of the Sahara Desert along the Niger River. He would go on to have an empire that spanned several boundaries, including current-day Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Mauritania, in addition to Mali.
The news of Musa's wealth and influence spread beyond Africa after his voyage to Mecca; he always had prominent visitors from Europe and Asia.
By the late 14th century, Musa had been drawn in the 1375 Catalan Atlas, an essential resource for navigators of Medieval Europe. Created by Spanish cartographer Abraham Cresques, the atlas depicted Musa sitting on a throne with a gold sceptre and crown, holding a gold nugget.
Tales of his enormous convoy and generosity passed on long after his death, which is believed to have taken place between 1332 and 1337.
Speaking on the vastness of Musa's wealth, University of Michigan associate history professor, Rudolph Ware said; "Imagine as much gold as you think a human being could possess and double it, that's what all the accounts are trying to communicate," he said. "This is the richest guy anyone has ever seen."
The big question which this piece of history raises is 'what happened to all that wealth?' Today, Mali battles extreme poverty and is the 12th poorest country in Africa. What happened to all its wealth?
What are your thoughts?