The mission statement on Huang Hongxiang's business card reads, "Integrate the Chinese into Africa".

It's a big, bold task, which the 27-year-old from Shantou, in Guangdong province, embarked on last March, when he established China House, in Nairobi, Kenya. Billed as the continent's first NGO to focus on China-Africa relations, it aims to help Chinese companies forge positive connections with African communities.

China became Africa's largest trading partner in 2009. Today, the continent is the Asian nation's second-largest market for overseas project contracting and fourth-largest outward investment destination; there are an estimated one million Chinese migrants now residing in Africa.

Huang - who has a degree in development practice from Columbia University, in New York - says that while Chinese firms are respected in Africa for the infrastructure they have built (China was responsible for 31 per cent of all infrastructure projects in East Africa last year, according to the Deloitte African Construction Trends Report), Chinese migrants still often face hostility.

"The challenges facing the Chinese in Africa stem from their lack of respect for local employees. This is compounded by a lack of understanding of the local media, interaction with civil society and environmental care," says Huang. "Chinese firms try to operate in Africa the same way they do in China, but that doesn't work."

China House has grown rapidly since its inception; it now has more than 20 research fellows, and has received media coverage from Al Jazeera and CCTV Africa.

In August, it co-founded Africa Tech Challenge, a Kenya-wide competition that saw teams of young entrepreneurs compete to win a contract with Chinese state-owned firm Avic International to manufacture and market their product.

This year, with US non-profit organisation Humane Society International, China House will launch its Engaging Chinese Against the Ivory Trade campaign, which will invite Chinese firms to participate in wildlife conservation and anti-ivory initiatives, to help protect elephant populations and improve China's global image.

While China House collaborates with NGOs and charities, it is struggling to win corporate social responsibility contracts (in essence, PR consultancy work) from Chinese firms in Africa.

"Chinese companies are still reluctant to pay for professional CSR and consulting services. It will take time," says Huang.

China House, meanwhile, is struggling to pay stipends to research fellows and the rent on its small office. Despite these challenges, Huang has no plans to leave.

"We are pioneers at the frontier of China-Africa engagement. We do not have a precedent to follow for issues such as engagement of Chinese firms with local communities," he says.

"But home is where your heart is. For me, that is Africa."