Kankan Musa is reputed to be one of the richest men that ever lived whose value in today’s terms is estimated at 400 billion dollars. He threw the economy of the Middle East and North Africa into pandemonium on his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 because he gave out so much gold that he devalued the price of the metal for the next decade in the region. This led to inflation and an economic crisis. But, who was this man that was able to single-handedly control the economy of a particular region of the world?
Kankan Musa, who is also called Musa Keita I, was the Emperor of Mali and ascended to the throne in 1312. As an emperor, he led many successful military expeditions conquering cities so that his empire eventually extended about 2000 miles. His empire extended across the present-day countries of Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad. Kankan Musa was also instrumental in transforming Mali into a center for Muslim scholarship and learning. He built mosques, madrasas and the University of Sankore. He was a great patron of Islamic art, literature and culture.
But what really led to his global fame was his pilgrimage to Mecca. He traveled with over 60,000 servants bearing gold, silk and other precious materials. He built a new mosque in every city that he passed through during his pilgrimage. Further, his generous distribution of gold affected the economy of the entire region, which, according to some historians, made this is the only time in recorded history that one person directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean. His visit left such a mark on people’s imaginations that he was included in the 1375 Catalan Atlas, one of the most important maps in Medieval Europe. Kankan Musa died in 1337 after a reign of 25 years.
By Iyeyinka Kusi-Mensah