Tunde Onakoya Biography

Tunde Onakoya

Tunde Onakoya is a Nigerian chess master, coach and founder of Chess in Slums Africa. He has organized a number of interventions for children across slums in Lagos state including Majidun (Ikorodu), Makoko and recently, Oshodi. The children are engaged in a two-week session that seeks to unlock their potential through the game of chess while learning to read, write and acquire basic literacy skills.

He is a Chess professional and convener of Chess in slums Africa, a non-profit organization that uses the game of chess as a framework to give children in impoverished communities access to education, technology and mentorship.

Background and career

Born on 6th October 1994, Tunde Onakoya learned to play chess at a barber's shop in a slum in Ikorodu, Lagos where he grew up. Being unable to pay for his secondary school, his mother offered to work for a school as a cleaner in exchange for his school fees. He would later be ranked as the number 13 chess player in Nigeria.

Onakoya got a diploma in computer science at Yaba College of Technology where he was a gold medalist representing the school in Nigeria Polytechnic Games and also at the RCCG Chess Championship. He has also won the National Friends of Chess and the Chevron Chess Open.

Onakoya was featured in CNN African Voices.

Onakoya is a board member of the New York City-based non-profit The Gift of Chess. 

Chess in Slums Africa

Chess in Slums Africa

Tunde Onakoya founded Chess in Slums Africa in 2017. This non-profit organisation utilises the game of chess as a tool for social intervention — a bridge between disadvantaged kids and their ambitions, a framework to give children in impoverished communities access to tuition-free education, learning resources and mentorship opportunities. Slowly and steadily, the project is rewriting a new narrative and building an inclusive future for every African child.

In September 2018, Chess in Slums Africa started as a volunteer driven non-profit organization that aims to empower young ones in impoverished communities through chess.

Coming from an economically disadvantaged background, Tunde saw no way out until the game of chess came to his rescue. Since then, he envisioned a world where like him, the game of chess will be the ultimate messiah that impoverished children need to envision a world beyond their grim reality.

Chess in Slums Africa partnered with Chess.com in September 2020 as an educational tool for classrooms, chess clubs, and parents.

As of June 2021, Chess in Slums Africa had trained over 200 children and got lifelong scholarships for 20 of them.

In May 2021, Ferdinand, a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy won the chess tournament in Makoko. He later met and competed with Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos State.

The Chess in Slums initiative has provided the world with success stories of slum children who became mega media sensations from just learning chess in their slum environments of Ikorodu, Makoko and the infamous Oshodi Under-Bridge in Lagos. These stories have been published by international reporting agencies, mainly BBC, Al-Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, AFP and MSN, and the list that is still growing. 

Chess in Slums Africa

Through Tunde Onakoya, whose idea and passion for this drive spawned the emergence of a new strategy for social intervention programmes, Chess in Slums is a growing success, as the initiative has impacted the lives of over 500 children and has successfully gotten fully funded educational scholarships for over 100 of those children in local and international institutions

When Tunde Onakoya is not in any slum looking for dreams to refine, he is at one stage or another speaking to bright minds on how it is possible to achieve greatness from the darkest and smallest of places. This has made him a three-time TedX speaker and netted him several awards: 

  • The Future Awards Africa Prize for Community Action in 2021; 
  • The Business Insider Award – Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2022; 
  • The JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Nigeria Award for Contributions to Children, World Peace and/or Human Rights in 2022; 
  • The Trendupp Award for Force of Social Good in 2022; and 
  • the Royal African Award in 2022.

The 29-year-old Tunde Onakoya is a dreamer and believes that the only future worth dreaming of is one that includes all of us, especially children in impoverished communities who do not have access to the endless opportunities that exist in our vast universe.