Actually, Mansa Musa Was The Richest Man Alive – Not Jeff Bezos

After Forbes had announced that Jeff Bezos was the richest man to ever live, Black Muslims on Twitter were offended that Mansa Musa was overlooked.

By

Hafsa Chughtai
Illustration of Mansa Musa

The recent news-breaking net worth of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos places him top of the list for the wealthiest people alive today – with many even calling him the wealthiest person ever. However, the media oftentimes forgets to mention a certain black individual in history whose wealth easily eclipses Bezos’s  Mansa Musa, the 10th ruler of the Malian Empire.

After the Amazon CEO overtook Bill Gates in first position  in 2018, his worth seemed to skyrocket at a baffling pace. But he is still way behind the African Muslim king who – according to many historians – is considered to be the richest man of all time. 

“Even adjusting for inflation, Forbes believes Bezos’ fortune is the largest ever tracked,” writes Jonathan Ponciano on Forbes, declaring the 56-year-old to be the ‘first person ever worth $200 Billion.’

 

On the contrary, taking into account inflation over the centuries, Musa is recorded to have amassed at least $400-$415 billion, more than twice that of Bezos. Nonetheless, Musa’s contemporaries and some modern commentators, including Time’s Jacob Davidson, believe his wealth was simply incomprehensible. “Contemporary accounts of Musa’s wealth are so breathless that it’s almost impossible to get a sense of just how wealthy and powerful he truly was,” Rudolph Butch Ware, West African historian at the University of California, told BBC.

 

 

Under Musa’s rule, the Mali empire stretched over several neighboring areas and became one of the most prosperous and largest African empires. The lands were laden with abundant natural resources – mostly gold and salt, which were also major contributors to the emperor’s wealth. In contrast to what it stands for today, he turned Mali into an advanced center of Islamic learning in the world. 

Relatively unknown in the world outside Mali before his pilgrimage to Mecca, Musa made sure his journey went down in history like none other before. He brought a caravan stretching as far as the eye could see,”  says TED-Ed writer Jessica Smith. This 4,000 miles journey was eyewitnessed by numerous absolutely in admiration of his wealth as he distributed insane amounts of gold all along his route.

 

 

As a result of Musa’s immense generosity on the city of Cairo, where he made a pause to meet the Sultan, the value of gold greatly deteriorated. In an attempt to even out the disruption, he bought it back from the people of the city – with the added inflation, becoming the only person to ever control the price of gold. A little hard to believe yet completely true. 

Mansa Musa left more than just his money for the people to come, it was merely a small fraction of his rich legacy. He is a significant figure in black history, which is why the declaration of Jeff Bezos as the richest man ever came as a shock for several. People are still tweeting their disapproval of the situation, labeling it as an attempt to whitewash history.

 

 

Bezos is the only billionaire amassing $200 billion in the present day, that’s true. But he is in no way closer to the top billionaires of even the 20th century. Generations following Musa did not exactly maintain their status, however, this legendary king and his undeniable assets make him deserving of defending his crown of the wealthiest man ever. These figures and events from history should not be replaced with such ease.

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