Learning how to make economic corridors work for the agricultural sector
In times of economic crisis, development models that help create jobs, generate wealth, mobilize public and private resources and sustainably stimulate key economic sectors are more important than ever. While there are no universal solutions, a development tool seems to be gaining ground: economic or growth corridors. These could be defined as a conceptual and programmatic model to structure socio-economic responses to develop a territory, building on a linear agglomeration of population and economic activities along existing transportation infrastructure. Interestingly enough, many high-income countries and regions have placed economic corridors at the centre of their economic and territorial development strategies. Similarly, many of the most dynamic emerging and developing countries have been using this approach for over a decade. Various international financial institutions are using corridors as the core strategy for supporting regional integration processes in the Southern Hemisphere. Likewise, private firms (either local or multinational) are increasingly participating in these initiatives, together with their public sector counterparts.
Four factors might be behind this trend. First, corridors are a "smart" tool for integrated territorial planning that combines interventions in infrastructure (and related services) with specific actions to boost key sectors —which are among the main users of such infrastructure. Second, economic corridors programmes encompass a set of coordinated actions such that ensures a critical mass of transformative investments. Third, it is a tool intrinsically conducive to generating multistakeholder strategic alliances, with the participation of local and central public authorities, private actors and donors, among others. The fourth factor is that through years of trial and error, best design and implementation practices have been identified, contributing to improving the performance of current corridor interventions.
In light of the above, AGS decided to undertake a study on economic corridors in developing and emerging countries, focusing on their potential role as an engine of agricultural growth. The study appraises economic corridors experiences with a strong agricultural component in Brazil, Central Asia, Indonesia, the Greater Mekong Subregion, Mozambique, Peru and Tanzania. It also documents the evolution of corridor interventions from purely transport sector-based initiatives, to logistics and trade corridors, and from there to economic corridors with a multisectoral approach. It notes that agriculture has become a key part of economic corridor programmes, especially in the southern hemisphere where the agricultural and agro-industrial sectors are among the main Gross Domestic Product contributors and employment generators.
The comparative analysis currently being conducted by AGS seeks to establish a corridor typology, identify the main drivers, describe corridor components , as well as their budget and sources of funding, stakeholders and management and governance mechanisms. Next, the study focuses on the agricultural component of the corridor programme, identifying the most recurrent activities under this component, the financial resources involved, most often selected subsectors or value chains and target market, the interface between infrastructure and agro-industrial development and the positive or negative impacts of the corridor intervention on the agricultural sector. The aim is to develop a checklist that those interested in developing agrocorridors can use as a reference for deciding what activities to pursue, what organizational model is more suitable and clarify the steps that need to be taken.
Often, economic corridors encompass other spatial development initiatives such as agro-based clusters, agricultural and food technopoles, agro-industrial parks and special economic zones (SEZ) with an agricultural component. These strategies are also of interest to AGS, which has published studies on the first two topics and it is currently completing further research on SEZ and parks.