The UK Government is to more than double its investment in emerging frontier economies, joining forces with leading retailers to improve conditions for garment factory and farm workers.

The partnerships between the Department for International Development (DFID) and companies including Marks & Spencer, Primark and John Lewis are part of a GBP1.8bn (US$3bn) package for 2015/16, designed to improve business conditions in Africa and South Asia, kickstart embryonic capital markets and drive more investment into frontier economies.

The DFID is partnering with 12 leading retailers to improve working conditions and job opportunities for more than 700,000 workers and smallholder farmers in Kenya, South Africa and Bangladesh.

Projects include a tie-up with Marks & Spencer to develop leadership and management skills for farm workers, and initiatives with Debenhams, Asda, Primark, River Island, John Lewis, C&A, M&Co, Next and Morrisons to improve management in Bangladesh garment factories.

“Economic development is, without question, the only way countries can leave behind enduring and chronic poverty for good,” said Justine Greening, UK International Development Secretary.

“I have restructured my department to focus on jobs and growth and can now commit to more than double the amount we will invest in this crucial area.

“Working with world-class businesses ensures frontier developing economies get the best support, advice and expertise they need to grow and Britain is well placed to benefit from this growth.”