Mansa Musa was King of the Mali Kingdom between A.D 1306 and 1332 A.D. His real name is Musa Keita, but he adopted Mansa, which means ”King of Kings” or ‘Emperor.’ He was the 10th emperor of this kingdom.
This ancient ruler is famed for travelling to Mecca alongside 72,000 residents for a holy pilgrimage. Mansa Musa has been recognized as the greatest African emperor there has ever been. His leadership led the Mali kingdom to become one of the wealthiest empires in the world.
This was fuelled mainly by the production of gold, salt, agriculture and dynamic trade. He was a prolific military leader and was lavish in his spending. The king captured several cities, which extended his territory to modern-day Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and so on.
2. Shaka Zulu of the Zulu tribe
African king names were inspired by their tribes of origin, their ancestors, or stories surrounding their birth. For instance, Shaka Zulu was originally known as Sigidi kaSenzangakhona. The name ‘Shaka’ is believed to have stemmed from his father’s claim that Nandi, his mother was not pregnant but was suffering from an intestinal condition caused by the iShaka beetle. Shaka is the founder of the famous Zulu empire in South Africa. He is known to have used dictatorial means to unite the Zulu tribes.
He is also famed for having created a powerful military force out of these tribes. Shaka’s troops used standardized weaponry to fight their foes. Among the weapons he developed was a short stabbing spear. During his brutal reign, Zulu’s troops killed a total of 2 million enemies
3. King Amenhotep III
Amenhotep III, also known as ‘Amenhotep the Magnificent’ is another one of the famous African kings. He came to power when he was 12 years old and was one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs in the 18th dynasty. Under his leadership, the country enjoyed stability
wealth, and peace. Moreover, Egypt established a notable influence on diplomacy and foreign policy. He constructed a man-made lake outside his palace to honour his wife, Queen Tiye. The two shared power and ruled the land together for 38 years.
4. Oba Oduduwa of the Oyo empire
This African King was the ruler of the Oyo Empire in 700 A.D. In the Yoruba culture, he is recognized as a primordial god. He came from the lower Nigerian region and conquered many existing settlements to develop Yorubaland.
Oduduwa had 16 children. Before his death, he sent each one of them to his conquered territories to rule them autonomously. This led to the founding of the Ila, Oragun, Owu,Ketu, Sabe, Popo, and Oyo kingdoms, which constituted the Yoruba dynastic family line.
5. King Oba Ewuare
He was also known as Ewuare the Great or the father of the Yoruba race. He ruled the Benin Empire as its first king from 1440 -1473. Oba Ewuare was also one of the first warrior kings of the West African region. He conquered 201 surrounding towns and villages With his son,Oba Ozolua,he established foreign trade in Benin, built lavish palaces and created various strategic policies that favoured their rulership. Benin experienced growth in the arts during his reign, and several cultural traditions and festivals were instituted
6. King Endubis
This Ethiopian king of the Axum kingdom was the first to mint coins of gold, silver, and bronze, complete with the king’s face and motto. He lived from 270-300 CE. Endubis is also famed for conquering Nubia, also known as the Kingdom of ancient Meroe.
7. King Taharqa
His name means ‘young warrior’ and is also known as Tirhakah. This Nubian king was the last ruler of the 25th dynasty in Egypt, reigning from 690 – 664 BC. Taharqa united the kingdoms of Egypt and Nubia, forming the largest African empire at the time.
This ruler brought a new peace and stability to the land, revived the arts, and several building projects. Bible scholars believe that Taharqa is mentioned in the Bible in 2 Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9 as the Cushite King of Egypt who waged war against Sennacherib king of Assyria
8. King Ezana of Aksum
King Ezana ruled the kingdom of Aksum, which is modern-day Eritrea. He is celebrated as the first Ethiopian king to embrace Christianity and convert his entire kingdom. He was very instrumental in establishing the Ethiopian Church. Ezana is also famed for ending the powerful rival kingdom of Meroe. He foresaw the building of several unique structures and obelisks (tall, pyramid-like monuments). This king also increased international trade, making the land of Axum prosper. His coins have been discovered in India and Greece.
9. King Sunni Ali Ber
Sunni Ali founded the Songhai Empire and reigned between the 15th and 16th centuries. During his reign, the Songhai Kingdom thrived and surpassed the Mali Empire by absorbing its territories, including Timbuktu. Sunni also had a strong military force and used amphibious operations that would attack through the Niger River. he was a member of the Sunni Muslim dynasty. The religion spread widely across urban and rural centres during his reign, making the Songhai empire become the largest Muslim West African empire of all time.
10. Sundiata Keita
His name means Lion Prince. Sundiata founded the Ancient Mali Empire and reigned between 1235-1255 CE. His territory constituted Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal, all of which he had conquered.
This ancient African king is known as the prince of the Mandinka people. Under Keita’s leadership, Mali created the first oral charter for human rights, the Manden Charter. The charter contains, among other things, the abolition of slavery, education and food security.