Baxter, J., Africa's 'greatest explorer', BBC, Dec 2000
An African emperor who ruled Mali in the 14th century discovered America nearly 200 years before Christopher Columbus, according to a book to be launched this month.
Abubakari II ruled what was arguably the richest and largest empire on earth - covering nearly all of West Africa.
According to a Malian scholar, Gaoussou Diawara in his book, 'The Saga of Abubakari II...he left with 2000 boats', the emperor gave up all power and gold to pursue knowledge and discovery.
Abubakari's ambition was to explore whether the Atlantic Ocean - like the great River Niger that swept through Mali - had another 'bank'.
In 1311, he handed the throne over to his brother, Kankou Moussa, and set off on an expedition into the unknown.
His predecessor and uncle, Soundjata Keita, had already founded the Mali empire and conquered a good stretch of the Sahara Desert and the great forests along the West African coast.
The book also focuses on a research project being carried out in Mali tracing Abubakari's journeys.
"We are not saying that Abubakari II was the first ever to cross the ocean," says Tiemoko Konate, who heads the project.