“They must own, control and direct the levers of economic activity,” Ramaphosa told delegates at the closing session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Durban.
“From the discussions that have taken place, including some of those I have participated in, there is an understanding of the urgency with which we need to address exclusion, inequality and unemployment.”
The deputy president said the key to speeding up inclusive growth was placing the African child at the centre of economic policies on the continent.
“For it is in the mind of the African child that the future of this continent resides,” he said.
“It is only by developing the capabilities of our young people that we will achieve the inclusive economic growth that we seek and the development that we need.”
The promotion of science and innovation in Africa would also contribute to efforts to reduce poverty and promote development, while access to education should be broadened to benefit not only the emerging middle class.
“By building networks of knowledge across the continent, by pooling resources and by developing shared research capacity across different African countries, we are creating a new scientific ecosystem,” said Ramaphosa.
“We need in particular to focus on the education of girls and young women, addressing the social, cultural and economic factors that limit their access to education.”
While Africa possessed considerable mineral resources, but to gain greater economic value, its people needed the skills to process these resources.
“The mineral resources we have, though abundant, are finite. They are prone to massive fluctuations in demand and price,” the deputy president said.
“Unless we have the technology, the knowledge and the industrial capacity to beneficiate these mineral resources, our people will only derive a fraction of their true economic value.”
Ramaphosa said when the WEF on Africa convenes again next year, there need to be an evaluation of how far the continent had come in expanding economic opportunities for its people.
“We need to demonstrate how the economic status of women has improved; how we have expanded youth employment and skills development,” he said.
“We need to demonstrate how our governments are managing public finances and allocating resources more effectively to support inclusive growth. We need to demonstrate the measures we have taken to reduce wastage, corruption and mismanagement.”
Ramaphosa stressed that for all these ideals to succeed, bold leadership was needed.
“Governments need to give leadership, but so too does the private sector, civil society and labour,” he said.
“We need a leadership that puts the needs of citizens first. We need a leadership than can build social partnerships for collective action in removing the barriers to economic inclusion.”