In May 2017, India and Japan released a vision document on the Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) on the sidelines of the 52nd Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Gandhinagar. On the occasion, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi said as part of the AAGC, India, along with other partnering countries like Japan, would explore joint initiatives in skills, health, infrastructure, manufacturing and connectivity in Asia and Africa.
The AAGC also assumes significance against the backdrop of India’s objections to the China-led growth corridor - One Belt One Road (OBOR) and also India’s ambition to increase her footprint in the Asia-Pacific Region.
It is against this backdrop, it is pertinent to know the key features of the AAGC, the benefits it would bring to India and the challenges ahead before India in executing the project. Besides, understanding the major differences between the AAGC and the OBOR is also important, which are given below.
For the first time, India and Japan institutionalized a dialogue on Africa in 2010. Since then, both the countries have been exploring the possibilities of cooperation in social and economic development of Africa. The idea of AAGC took a concrete shape in November 2016 as it was included in the joint declaration issued by Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after the conclusion of summit level talks.
Key elements of the Asia, Africa Growth Corridor are-
• The AAGC has four key pillars. They are Development and Cooperation Projects, Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connectivity, Enhancing Capacities and Skills and People-to-People partnership. Compared to the other three elements, People-to-People partnership is the most important one as it takes into account the centuries old relationship between India and Africa.
• The primary objective of the AAGC is to improve the growth and inter-connectedness between and within Asia and Africa for realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The connectivity aspects of the AAGC will be supplemented with quality infrastructure.
• The corridor will give priority to development projects in health and pharmaceuticals, agriculture and agro-processing, disaster management and skill enhancement.
• The AAGC-led growth in Africa and Asia will be responsive to the collective commitment for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
• The growth corridor will contribute to develop institutional mechanisms and models for connecting businesses, people and think tanks that represent, and contribute to, the integration efforts in Asia and Africa.
Asia Africa Growth Corridor: Benefits to India
• Bolster Trade: Over the last five years, India-Africa has doubled to $72 billion. Increased engagement with the African nations will help Indian products reach the hinterland, which are cheap and efficient compared to products of the western countries. Most significantly, India is the 5th largest investor in Africa with over $54 billion so far. Most of the Indian companies produce goods in Africa using the raw material available locally. The goods, thus produced will reach the Indian market at low costs.
• UNSC membership: India and Japan are part of the G4, which also consists of Germany and Brazil. All the group members joined hands to demand UNSC reforms for expanded permanent membership. For any changes in the UNSC structure, requires the support of 54 African nations. The deeper engagement of India with Africa will help India’s candidacy in the expanded UNSC.
• Meets India’s objectives: The Asia Africa Growth Corridor is in sync with India’s foreign policy objectives and the world view that vouch for a multipolar world. The alliances India will make with the developed and developing countries as part of the AAGC, will help India in extending its soft power.
• Learning Opportunities: Like India, many countries in Africa and in South East Asia are facing similar problems like malnutrition, illiteracy, financial exclusion, women underdevelopment, etc. The development partnerships forged as part of the AAGC will help the Indian administration in developing new models of service delivery.
Above all, with the successful execution of the Asia Africa Growth Corridor, India’s strategic footprint in the region will expand and help the country in maintaining the growth momentum.
One Belt One Road Vs Asia Africa Growth Corridor
The following are some of the differences between both the projects.
• Scope: The scope of the OBOR is vast, covering Asia, Europe and few parts of the Africa. While the AAGC is focused on the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean countries in Asia and Africa.
• Focus: While the focus of the OBOR is to build physical infrastructure like roads, railways and ports, the primary element of the AAGC is to improve quality of living, build people-to-people partnership and help the poorest countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
• Approach: Since OBOR is a purely china-led initiative, the initiatives under the project are solely decided by China. Whereas, the AAGC vision document mentions that it will follow a more consultative and collaborative approach.
Despite the above mentioned shortcomings, when compared to OBOR of China, the Asia Africa Growth Corridor is a significant initiative due to the diversity of countries involved and the objectives it has set forth. It is a big opportunity for India to showcase its technical know-how on the global scale.