Indonesia has played a constructive role in international fora and multilateralism to support international development cooperation. The commitment for international cooperation has inspired Indonesia to build strong engagements with other countries.
On 18 to 24 April 1955, Indonesia hosted the Asia- Africa Conference in Bandung to promote cooperation in economic and cultural fields. In recent years, in the context of Indonesia-Africa relations, Indonesia organised two major events, the Indonesia-Africa Forum (IAF) on 10 April 2018 and the Indonesia Africa Infrastructure Dialogue (IAID) from 20 to 21 August 2021. The meetings have reinforced the diplomatic relations between Indonesia and African countries, improved economic relations, and identified room for cooperation in mutually-beneficial sectors of development.
To further implement and strengthen its role as well as promote Indonesian capacity in international cooperation development, The Government of Indonesia established the Indonesian AID (Agency for International Development) in 2019.
As stated by Jusuf Kalla, the previous vice president of Indonesia during the inauguration of the agency said Indonesian AID is dedicated to implementing hands-on diplomacy by providing foreign aid to developing countries.
Indonesian AID is the concrete implementation of economic diplomacy carried out by Indonesian missions in foreign countries. Under the current global environment, Indonesian missions are tasked to support economic growth by opening new markets, facilitate more international trade and in-bound or out-bound investments as well as attract foreign visitors, including tourists, to Indonesia.
In an economic perspective, the role of foreign grants or aid has been highlighted and discussed in different studies. Economists found that grants could generate positive impacts for the economies. The establishment of Indonesian AID was in line with the positive impact of foreign grants to development, not only in the receiving country, but also in the donor country.
Foreign grants could boost production, generating employment, reducing poverty, and contributing to GDP. For example, the purchase of the Landing Craft Tank (LCT) ship by the Government of Comoros Union to a ship-building company in Indonesia has created jobs and increased income for the local economy in the form of tax income and direct income for the people, as well as attracting investment.
The economies of the recipient countries also greatly benefit from the provision of grants. For instance, the LCT ship received by the Union of Comoros on 25 May 2022 helped overcome the food crisis and supported inter-island sea transportation, generating economic growth in the Comoros. The impact of foreign grants to the receiving country can also be observed in the case of capacity-building. In August 2022, the government of Indonesia granted training on customs procedures to the government of Timor Leste. This capacity-building will increase the knowledge and skills of Timor Leste’s customs authority as well as promote
Cooperation in export and import. Furthermore, the programme would result in building closer relations between both authorities that could initiate other forms of cooperation.
The provision of foreign grants produces economic benefits and strengthens bilateral relations. Political or international relations’ analysts view grants to be a useful tool for donating countries to project their image in the receiving countries, or to display their policy towards a particular issue or interest. The minister for foreign affairs of Indonesia, Retno Marsudi, said Indonesian AID would strengthen Indonesia’s role in implementing world order through strengthening international development cooperation. Indonesian AID will project Indonesia’s capacity as a donor country, as well as boost its position in international development cooperation.
In the context of bilateral relation, Indonesia has established diplomatic relations with Namibia since 13 May 1991. This year, 2022, both countries celebrated 31 years of diplomatic relations. To manifest such strong relations, ambassador of Indonesia in Windhoek, Wisnu Edi Pratignyo, has embarked on various steps for strengthening and developing bilateral relations.
Ambassador Wisnu, in his meetings with different government officials and institutions, had presented the possible cooperation through Indonesian AID. The provision of grants can be utilised to improve physical infrastructure or obtain capacity-building that is beneficial for economic growth. The ambassador has acknowledged demands for grants in different sectors, such as agriculture or education and training, to improve human resources’ capacity. The grants provided through Indonesian AID is implemented on government-to-government basis.
To obtain the grants from Indonesian AID is not an overnight project. The government institutions of the receiving country should devise a proposal detailing the demand for the grants, including the potential benefit for the economy and society. The benefit of the grants is expected to be observed for the long term, and to create further opportunities of bilateral cooperation. The administration of Indonesian AID is conducted jointly by the ministries of finance, foreign affairs, national development planning and the state secretariat. Due to the nature of the agency, the approval process of grants will require some period of time to conclude.
Since the establishment of the agency up to the moment, Indonesia has disbursed grants to the following countries: Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Palau, Antigua Barbuda, Suriname, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Afghanistan, India, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. Indonesian AID grants have contributed to generating economic benefits in the receiving country as well as in the donor country, and simultaneously built closer bilateral relations. Development projects funded by the grants covered various fields, such as medical, transportation-connectivity, ICT facility and other capacity-building programmes.
Recently, Indonesia provided a capacity-building programme for developing tissue culture capabilities. The programme, conducted in July to September 2022, is the implementation of an agreement between the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) and the University of Namibia (Unam). An Indonesian agriculture expert provides the training for researchers and practitioners at Unam’s Ogongo campus. This capacity-building programme could also be obtained through Indonesian AID and it would enhance human resources, especially for the youth.
As Namibia is endowed with potential youth labour, it is important to empower the youths with the necessary skills to allow them to excel in seeking jobs and creating jobs. In this regard, grants can be allocated for capacity- building programmes in IT, agriculture, the manufacturing sector or developing vocational education in various studies, such as tourism and hospitality. Skills obtained from vocational schools would increase productivity and enable youths to create jobs.
The presence of vocational schools would benefit the country in terms of education as well as in the economy due to its potential to reduce unemployment and generate socio-economic benefits.
From time to time, Indonesia realised that cooperation is the key to overcome the challenges in development. The Indonesian foreign minister has highlighted the importance of partnerships and the aspiration to prosper together that would create strong foundations for international relations and enhance development. The implementation of Indonesian AID will support the efforts to strengthen international relations and development, especially in the receiving country.
Ari Hadiman is the head of department for information and social cultural affairs at the embassy of Indonesia in Windhoek. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.