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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How to Get the Most Out of the African Tour

President George W. Bush's whistle-stop tour of five African countries this week promises to produce more show than substance. But both he and Africa stand to benefit from it.

New concern for Africa may help rebuild some of the capital the United States has lost in Iraq in terms of international image. After bolstering its humanitarian and economic commitment, the United States is edging toward a peacekeeping engagement in Liberia -- a departure for a superpower otherwise averse to exercising leadership in settling African conflicts.

Much more effort is still needed to tackle African poverty and the wars, disease and hunger associated with it. But the sums pledged by the the United States are significant enough to make a difference. Bush's $15 billion plan for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS is the largest amount ever committed in one go to fighting a disease.

He has also sought a 50 percent increase in development aid and wants to extend the time limit for trade facilities covering an annual $9 billion worth of African exports to the United States.

These programs are, however, selective. Trade and aid favors are based on eligibility criteria -- whether countries are judged to be applying the rule of law, combating corruption, respecting human rights, promoting enterprise and doing nothing to undermine U.S. interests.

But money is not the biggest problem in Africa. More important is the shortage of administrative capacity to use it properly. The results of Bush's policy will be better measured by the extent to which U.S. leverage succeeds in helping Africa meet its most pressing need, which is more effective government.

In this respect, he has made a gaffe leaving Kenya out of his itinerary (which takes him to Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria), on security grounds. Kenya, East Africa's most important economy, has set an example in transforming itself into a credible democracy with a strongly anti-corruption government. It also provides valuable access facilities for the the United States and its allies in the fight against terrorism.

The country has already suffered doubly as a result of two big al-Qaida bombings -- one that destroyed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi five years ago, another at an Israeli-owned beach hotel last November, when an attempt was also made to shoot down an Israeli airliner. Subsequent warnings against travel to Kenya by the United States, Britain and others -- and the recent interruption of British flights -- have caused disproportionate damage to its economy. If anyone wants to persuade Africans that the world does not treat them unfairly, this is not the way to do it.

This comment appeared as an editorial in the Financial Times.