The Mathare network of slums is perhaps the most notorious in Nairobi.

Boasting a population of 500,000 — jammed into roughly half a square mile — Mathare is the second-largest slum in the Kenyan capital, and infamously tough.

Marked by widespread poverty, unemployment and a high crime rate, it’s not the easiest place for children to grow up, though many do.

According to the UN World Health Organization, children in Nairobi slums are two and half times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than in other areas of the city.

Thanks to the Chinese embassy in Kenya and Chinese firms operating in the country, the children of Mathare were able to enjoy an early Christmas, receiving donated gifts of food, soccer balls and sportswear, Xinhua reported.

Guo Ce, economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese embassy in Kenya, and Li Changgui, chairman of Kenya China Economic and Trade Association (KCETA) presided over the donation.

During the donation ceremony held at the Mcedo Beijing School that is sponsored by Chinese embassy and enterprises operating in Kenya, Guo said the donation was intended to wish children a wonderful Christmas.

Pupils at the school also received a projector donated by StarTimes which is a member of KCETA.

Li said the Christmas donation worth about 1.4 million shillings (about US$14,000) was part of the corporate social responsibility of Chinese enterprises to help improve the livelihoods of Kenyan communities. He said Chinese firms are committed to helping Mathare children realize their dreams despite financial constraints.

According to China Africa Project, in recent years, large numbers of Chinese have migrated to Kenya to work and live.

It is estimated that the Chinese population in Kenya grew from 3000~10,000 in 2007 to 40,000~60,000 in 2018.

Guo Ce, economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese embassy in Kenya, donates sports equipment to the students of the Mcedo Beijing School in Nairobi’s Mathare slums. Credit: Xinhua.

These Chinese people work in different areas, like infrastructure construction, service industry, industrial engineering. Besides doing business, companies also have an impact on the local education.

Most Chinese companies influence local education through vocational education programs. Compared to standard education, skill training is more applicable for jobs for local Kenyans, since lots of people cannot afford higher education.

There are a few different types of Chinese businesses operating in Kenya: state-owned enterprises, large multi-national companies, and small local companies. While larger firms, such as state-owned enterprises or multi-national companies, may have the resources to provide both skill training internally within the company and external skill training, smaller companies tend only to have the capacity to provide internal skill training.

As the largest telecommunications equipment provider in the world, Huawei, a multinational corporation, operates a mega Corporation-Social-Responsibility project called “Seeds for the Future (SFF)” since 2008.

This project was found for teaching youth worldwide the knowledge of technology. Huawei is now setting ICT classes, a portion of SFF, in five universities in Kenya.

As Su Shuqi, the staff of Huawei’s Training Department, said: “We are intended to deliver professional technology training for college students, in order to reserve talents for the nation.”

This type of training clearly has external benefits, improving the skills of individuals outside of Huawei.

According to The Economist, finding ways to improve slums will be one of the most pressing problems of the 21st century for African governments.

The warrens of shacks and crudely built apartment blocks are home to 40% of the city’s population, according to one recent World Bank survey (others put the figure even higher).

As the city’s population has exploded — from a third of a million at independence in 1963 to over 4 million now — so too have the slums.

Across Africa, they are the primary way by which hundreds of thousands of people have escaped even greater poverty in the countryside.

By 2030, half of Africa’s population will live in cities. According to the UN, two-thirds of that growth will take place in slums.