Chess is a game which requires a lot of acumen and practice to be good at it. It has been regarded in many quarters as a game for the rich in Africa. This is ironic as chess only needs to be played using a board and its pieces. However, this narration has changed with chess coming to slums and the poorest areas of the continent. Do we call this a chess revolution as we hear stories of a rug to fame stories from people? We mean kids and adults who have become celebrities overnight because of chess they learned from others.
Take, for instance, Makoko in Nigeria is a floating slum that does not have a beautiful story. The poverty-ridden community has found hope in a project called Chess in Slums Africa. The team involved started this chess project to help kids and ended up bringing out the best of the kids.
Chess master Tunde Onakoya is responsible for creating these tournaments in different parts of Lagos, Nigeria. Onakoya and his team meet kids in low-come communities and teach them how to play chess. When they become good at the game, competition is set for the kids. Today, this competition has become one of the most anticipated in the country.
Chess in Slums Africa was founded in 2018 as a non-profit organization. The team believes that chess would change these children’s lives. With the help of the organization, kids are getting scholarships to study. Social media has amplified the activities of Chess in Slums Africa. This has helped the organization to raise money for kids’ education with the support of companies like Venture Garden Foundations.
Nigeria is not the only place where chess is changing lives. According to the African Chess Federation, up to 46 countries in the continent have strong chess communities. Africa has produced six grandmasters since 2014, while Algeria, Egypt, and South Africa lead in the game. In 2005, Phiona Mutesi joined the chess club in her slum neighborhood of Katwe, Uganda at the age of 9.
Mutesi grew to become Uganda’s national champion and represented the country at international tournaments. She was the subject of a 2012 book and a 2016 Disney film called “Queen of Katwe. In Kenya, 28-year-old chess coach James Kangaru is inspiring schools and communities in the country. He started playing chess in high school and ended up as a coach when he finished the university. He started a community outreach program called Epitome School of Chess.
The program is helping kids learn how to play the game. From an outskirt village called Ruai to Mavoko, he has taught kids how to play chess. The International Chess Federation, the game’s global governing body recognized Kangaru as one of the best chess coaches in 2018. This made him become the youngest FIDE instructor in Africa
With coaches like Onakoya and Kangaru, Africa is witnessing a transformation in the game of chess. These different chess programs have become the life support for many kids in low communities. Many of these kids have become overnight celebrities and students in different parts of Africa.