Who Is Richest Person in The World?

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Who is Your Pick for Richest Person in History? 

I'd like you to do a thought experiment with me. See if you can answer this question. Who is the wealthiest person in the history of the world? Take a minute. Did you think of Jeff Bezos?  Warren Buffet? A wealthy oil tycoon in the Middle East? Well, as of January 2021, the richest person alive is Elon Musk. He is worth $188 Billion (rockets not included). A close second is Jeff Bezos at $184 Billion (includes free shipping). I find it interesting that these are two men who started with little to no wealth when they started their businesses. They just had an idea to create and then the actualization of that creation. One man fundamentally changed the auto and space industries, and the other changed the way we shop for and transport goods and services. 
I'd like to tell you that if you guessed one of the people I describe above as the wealthiest people in the world that you'd be right. But, I have to tell you there is more to the story of wealth than today's Plutocrats. You have to go back in time more than 700 years and learn about a man named Mansa Musa.
Elon Musk SpaceX rocket
He would become the wealthiest person in the history of the world. You see Mansa, or King, Musa was the ruler of the West African empire of Mali. He took the kingdom over from his father in the year 1307. His father was the main influence on his life. By watching his father, Sundiata, he learned how to lead and unite religious and non-religious groups of men and women. Therefore keeping the peace and promoting trade among the people within and outside of his kingdom. He also learned how to be generous to his people with his wealth. He would often support the poor and working-class through his donations of gold. Musa understood the value of trade and promoted it throughout his reign as king.

14th Century Mali Kingdom

Highlighted Map of Mali in the 14th century along with it's gold control
With his promotion to the king, he was given the task of growing this new and fledgling empire. The first goal was to expand his empire and secure trade routes along the Niger River. This would do two things. The first was to secure and own the goldfields of Wangara (now part of the Mali empire), and the second was to create a safe way to transport the gold back to Mali. Having the ability to mine the gold and transport it to his protection enabled Mali to be the largest and wealthiest empire in African history. His kingdom was now covering over 440,000 square miles of land or the equivalent of nine modern-day countries in Africa. Musa was so skilled at creating wealth that during his reign, Mali owned about 80% of the world's gold. This ownership was estimated to be worth north of $400 Billion in today's dollars.  The most wealth in the history of the world.

He Was Worth His Weight in Salt

Among the wealth in gold, Mali also had access to the salt deposits of the Sahara Desert. Musa understood the value of salt and not only in trade but how necessary it was to countries outside of Africa. So he developed mining processes and set up trading partners throughout Africa.  Mansa Musa was entering his 17th year of power, and his kingdom was healthy and vibrant. He wanted to extend his reach and wealth and decided a trip to Mecca would enable him to meet his Muslim faith requirement as well as promote Mali as a major trading post destination.  Establishing Mali as a destination of international trade was Musa's second and most audacious plan during his reign as king.  

The Most Expensive Trip Ever

During the 14th Century, Europian's had no real understanding of the value and opportunity Africa and Mali had to offer. Musa knew he needed to make a big show of his wealth and abundance to get the volume of traders he wanted. The plan to go to Mecca was both a religious and business sojourn that would grant him the publicity he was seeking.
In true Mansa Musa style, he decided to travel with 60,000 people, 80 camels, and 300 pounds of gold. Even his guards had gold-covered spears for all to see as they marched through countries and cities on the way to Mecca. More wealth was being displayed in his caravan than anyone had ever seen at the time.

Going Viral in the 14th Century

Musa and his people marched and stayed in Cairo, Egypt, and Ethiopia and spent large sums of money in the city centers buying anything and everything he wanted. He also handed out gold to the poor citizens of these other countries. Musa knew that his generosity would spread across Africa, Europe, and the Arab world. The people would be drawn to him and his country because of his amazing wealth. Historians estimate he spent about $100 million in total for this trip.
a caravan to Mecca
This spending did indeed draw a lot of attention. Musa understood social networking hundreds of years before its time. He garnered so much attention for his kingdom that Mali started appearing on European maps as the land of gold. During Musa's pilgrimage to Mecca, he was told Mali would now appear in the 1375 addition Catalan Atlas. This atlas was the most recognized and used map in medieval Europe.

Education is Key

Not only was Musa a wise and benevolent king, but he was also keenly aware of the fact that an educated and religious citizenry was necessary for his kingdom's long-term survival. Musa made Islam the official state religion. During his sojourn, he would order his people to build a Mosque wherever he happened to be for his observance of the holy day on Fridays. Timbuktu was also a big focus for Musa after his trip. He would build the Djinguereber Mosque, which still stands today. Learning centers were also created so that people could understand and learn about the Muslim culture.  
Education was a priority, and he decided to build a college, Sankore University, which housed the largest college library at the time and it dwarfed all others. Musa wanted his people to read and write Arabic so that they could become better business people, as well as be able to read the Koran (Muslim Holy Book).

Did You Buy a Lottery Ticket? 

lottery ticket
If you won the largest lottery in the world to date, you would have received about $1.586 billion, and you'd still have half of what Mansa Musa had.
What dreams do you have when you contemplate what you'll do with the winnings?
I can tell you that I now have a different view of what I'd do with that money. Musa's love for his people and his country is overwhelming. He could have easily lived a lavish lifestyle and never lifted a finger to help anyone out of poverty or ignorance. Yet, he did that and more. During a 25 year reign, he had done something no other person could do in his time, make Africa the world center for trade and wealth.  
I hope the next time you see Jeffery BezosEllan Musk, or Bill Gates, you take a look at who they are as men and see what they are doing to change the world to a better place. Hopefully, they'll take a cue from Mansa Musa, and so will you. 

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