A better future is within reach if African governments move away from corruption and put a priority on democratic and civilian rule. That's the message Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered Monday to a gathering of African trade and finance minister meeting in Washington. The secretary urged African nations to commit to good government if they want to fully realize the benefits of free trade with the United States. The secretary added that the continent will not be on the right track until it puts its political and financial houses in order.

Secretary Powell told commerce and finance ministers from 35 Sub-Saharan countries that is the only way the continent is going to be able to attract outside investment. "A better future is within reach if African government and societies leverage the rewards of political and economic freedom by putting a priority on good governance," he said. "If African militaries understand their subordinate role under civilians in a democratic society, if governments do not oppose peaceful opposition with force, but rather choose engagement with ideas."

Signed into law earlier this year, he says the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act has been a terrific success, leading to the creation of more than 10,000 jobs. He says Africa's success ultimately rests with private enterprise. But more reforms will be necessary if the world's poorest continent is going to be able to attract outside capital. "Capital will go to where it is going to be safe, where it can find a return on its investment," he said. "It will flee from corruption, it will flee from bad policies. It will flee from those societies and nations that remain rooted in a past system of corruption and bad policies."

Mr. Powell says much of Africa is going to have to see economic growth rates of at least seven percent a year if some of the continent's poorest countries are going to escape poverty.