Between 1200-1450 A. D., the Kingdom of Mali became the most powerful kingdom in Africa.
Mali's economic base was agrarian and the country developed into an extremely successful agricultural producer. The residents of Mali were major forces controlling the movement of goods throughout much of Africa. One of Mali's first leaders was Sundiata. He ruled over a period of expansion conquering the neighboring trading cities of Gao, Jenne and Walata.
One of Sundiata's successors, Mansa Musa, further expanded the Mali empire to include the cities of Timbuktu and Gao. At its height, the Kingdom of Mali was home to 8 million people. After Mansa Musa converted to Islam, many Malians followed suit. Mansa Musa undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca between 1324- 1325. He returned with both a greater understanding of the world and an enhanced commitment to Islam. Under his guidance, Timbuktu developed into a world center of art and learning.