Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Durban on Thursday, Zuma was responding to a question from the floor on how young people can play a bigger role in decision-making.
"I reshuffled my Cabinet recently and I put a lot of young people in my Cabinet," Zuma said in his response. "Of course people have different views about that, but that's democracy."
Zuma said in his address that the youth have been clear: leaders must address unemployment and inequality.
He said the WEF's theme of inclusive growth presents an opportunity for vigorous discussion of various issues of economic growth and development. "Opportunities from that growth must not be enjoyed by only a few."
Zuma said since the last WEF meeting in South Africa in 2015, "we've seen increased alienation and exclusion".
He said Africa is a youthful continent, with a bright future if it invests correctly in its young people.
"As leaders we haven't addressed adequately how to close the gap between rich and poor and get meaningful inclusive growth. The gap between rich and poor in many countries remains wide."
Radical economic transformation in SA
Zuma said in South Africa radical economic transformation is under way, which in his view will take the country on the path to inclusive growth and a better life for all.
"Moves are already under way to radically transform the African economy. Infrastructure development remains top of the agenda to ease the movement of goods, people and services across Africa. Also critical is the work that is being done to promote regional integration and intra-Africa trade."
In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, for example, industrialisation especially through labour intensive manufacturing to promote job creation is a priority, Zuma said.
"Other focus areas include agriculture in order to improve food security and also to begin to derive more value from the ocean, through boosting the ocean economy. These are areas that many investors would find lucrative on the African continent."
He cautioned though that for Africa to succeed in taking these programmes forward, the continent needs financing.
"Accordingly, we must invest in developing local capital markets and mobilise domestic resources through taxation and other means," Zuma said.
Illicit financial flows
Standing in the way of Africa's ability to mobilise funding however is the prevalence of illicit financial flows, which lead to billions of dollars leaving the shores of Africa annually. "This is money that can be used to finance projects in Africa.
"If we don't address financial crimes such as profit shifting, base erosion and other tax crimes we won't make progress," Zuma said.
Another radical step African countries need to take is to diversify their economies away from dependence on commodities so that they become less vulnerable to commodity shocks, the president said.
"We also need to step up investment in both social and economic infrastructure. Improving the quality of life of our people through social infrastructure such as building hospitals (and) schools will improve the quality of life," he added.
In order to achieve these goals and many others, Africa as a continent needs to strengthen developmental partnerships between government, business, labour and all relevant stakeholders.
"This (World Economic) Forum is a key instrument in this regard as it brings global actors together to discuss such important matters. It is also important for such discussions among social partners to continue taking place domestically, which has been an important area of emphasis for South Africa," Zuma said.
Zuma concluded his address by saying that Africans have decided to take charge of their destiny. "Our people yearn for prosperity and we are determined not to fail them. That is why we have Agenda 2063 as a clear roadmap towards inclusive growth and a better life.
"We are acting to propel the rise of the African giant, our continent.
"Yes, we need to partner with the rest of the world to achieve our radical economic transformation goals. Our partners will find us moving forward with determination and zeal.
"Africa is rising and African leaders are rising to the occasion," he said.