Founded by Sundiata Keita, otherwise known as the Lion King, the empire was a major African civilization that blossomed between the 13th and 16th centuries.
Located near present-day West Africa, the empire reached its peak under Mansa Musa in the early 1300s. Musa made his fortune through Mali’s supply of gold, salt and ivory to most of the world during that time.
He was estimated to have been worth the equivalent of $400 billion in today’s currency, which makes him the richest man on earth.
In 1324, he became the first Muslim ruler to make the four-thousand-mile pilgrimage, where he met rulers from the Middle East and Europe, putting Mali on European maps. He brought back scholars from his pilgrimage to improve Islamic education while building many mosques that stand till now.
He also played a huge role in the development of Timbuktu and its famous university, the University of Timbuktu, which has since been a major learning institution for Africa and the rest of the world.
In 1593, the empire was invaded by Morocco which eventually led to its collapse.
Described as one of the greatest empires to ever exist in Africa, the Kingdom of Aksum lasted from around 100 AD to 940 AD, and extended across East Africa and beyond, including modern-day Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan.
Located in the northern province of Tigray, Aksum remained the capital of Ethiopia until the seventh century CE.
At its peak, the kingdom controlled territories as far as southern Egypt, east to the Gulf of Aden, south to the Omo River, and west to the Cushite Kingdom of Meroe.
Aksum was situated in a strategic position in the middle of a large trade route that extended from Rome to India. It was involved in the trade network between India and the Mediterranean (Rome, later Byzantium), exporting ivory, tortoiseshell, gold and emeralds, and importing silk and spices.
As it dominated trade routes due to its strategic position, Aksum became one of the first African empires to issue its own coins.
Apart from having its own alphabet known as the Ge’ez, the kingdom is famous for its tall stone cut towers known as obelisks which were tombstones that were built to mark graves and underground burial chambers.
Historians have attributed the decline of Aksum to several causes. For some, climate change, resulting in deforestation and erratic rainfall caused the Kingdom’s downfall.
Others also base the Kingdom’s decline on external political factors, like the rise of other large empires including the Persian and cities like Alexandria and Byzantium (now Istanbul), as well as, the growing power of the Arabs, who were beginning to dominate the Red Sea trade routes that were before then ruled by Aksum.
Culled from face2faceafrica.com