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When all is said and done in 2020, African economies will probably have outperformed the rest of the world during the coronavirus pandemic. Africa’s 54 countries now include seven of the globe’s 10 fastest-growing economies, in part because the lethal virus may have improved their competitive advantage as they accelerated their decade-long transformation from exporters of natural resources to hubs of wireless, remotely engaged commerce.

The transition to technology-driven, 21st-century business in a region where people are younger than anywhere else is reflected in the changing landscape of the 1,300 publicly traded companies that make up corporate Africa. Communications firms have become a robust presence, making up 29% of the total market capitalization of the continent in 2020 compared to 13% a decade earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Materials and energy, the region’s benchmarks since colonial times, declined to 23% from 34% during the same period.

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