Oct 18, 2021

Education has proven time and time again to be a significant factor in improving the lives of not only the student but those with who the student surrounds himself and many others along the way.

A significant historical figure who embodied the value of education and wealth comes from Mansa Musa, determined in encouraging schooling throughout West Africa; his vast fortune was selfless, lucrative, and advantageous.


I’m sure you are surprised to hear that the richest man in history is neither Jeff Bezos nor Elon Musk. Mansa Musa was the ninth Mansa of the Mali Empire, an Islamic West African state.

Musa conquered 24 cities, along with their surrounding districts. During Musa’s reign, Mali may have been the largest producer of gold in the world. Musa has been considered the wealthiest human ever.

Though some sources have estimated his wealth as equivalent to US$400 billion, his actual wealth is impossible to accurately calculate. Musa may have brought as much as 18 tons of gold on his hajj. Because of his nature of giving, Musa’s massive spending and generous donations created a massive ten-year gold recession. In the cities of Cairo, Medina, and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal significantly.

Musa’s travels through Timbuktu and Gao on his way to Mecca impacted the city significantly, so much so, that today, the University of Sankure in Timbuktu was restaffed under Musa’s reign with jurists, astronomers, and mathematicians. The university became a centre of learning and culture, drawing Muslim scholars from around Africa and the Middle East to Timbuktu. Mansa Musa developed Timbuktu into a place of intellectual debate in the 1300s, building hundreds of schools, libraries, and mosques.

Don’t be fooled with the talk surrounding the 1% being drop-outs and earning their wealth conspicuously through ‘hard work’ outside of the educational system. Billionaires and millionaires today have affluent backgrounds that propel them to higher opportunities. However, with education, the increase in earning potential rises; in 2020, the annual employment rates of graduates were 15.1% higher than non-graduates.

Additionally, Graduates earn £10,000 more per year than those who don’t go to university, proving that a degree continues to be a rewarding investment. The Department for Education shows a continued rise, as working-age graduates aged 16-64 earned a median salary of £34,000 in 2018, a rise of £1,000 from the previous year, while their non-graduate peers who chose a different path earned a median salary of £24,00.

The value of education even though the Mali Empire in West Africa (c. 1235 to 1670) was acknowledged and highly advocated as an approach to improving civilization and the self. Musa’s generosity affected the economy of Cairo to the extent that the value of gold decreased, he “flooded Cairo with his kindness”.

By the end of Mansa Musa’s reign, the Sankoré University had been converted into a fully staffed University with the largest collections of books in Africa since the Library of Alexandria. The Sankoré University was capable of housing 25,000 students and had one of the largest libraries in the world with roughly 1,000,000 manuscripts. 700 years later, many of the historic buildings, including the schools Musa built are still standing today.

For more information on Mansa Musa, you can find ‘’Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali’’ by P. James Oliver online or in most bookstores.


Angeli Labor


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