Born: 1280 (Mali)
Reign: 1312-1337 (25 years)
During the 14th century, King Mansa Musa was the richest, most powerful and influential emperor in the world. He was the 10th leader of the great Mali Empire in West Africa, which was home to ancient Timbuktu, the historical epicenter where students from all over the world came to learn the arts and sciences from African and Islamic scholars.
Europe got its first taste of the noble king when Musa, a devout Muslim, embarked on his famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. The voyage made him visible to countries like Italy, Germany and Spain, whose cartographers began drawing maps depicting the West African king and his wealth in gold.
Curious about Musa and his lucrative land, and hungry for his riches, this discovery is what sparked the first invasion of the Portugese into West African territories in quest for gold and other natural resources, which later opened up to the beginning of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Today, Mansa Musa is regarded as the wealthiest king to ever walk the planet, with an estimated worth of $400 billion.