Great progress had been made since the advent of democracy through social and economic redress, but much more remains to be done, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.
"So many of our people still experience hunger, millions are still unemployed, many still do not have houses, electricity or clean water. There are still huge gaps in wealth and opportunity between white and black and between women and men," he said during his address at Freedom Day celebrations at the Dr Rantlai Petrus Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein.
Friday marks 24 years since all South Africans were given the right to take part in first democratic elections, since the end of the apartheid regime.
"Our people cannot be truly free if they do not have jobs, if they do not have an education and if they do not have livelihoods. We know that the advent of democracy did not automatically heal the divisions of the past. We must work resolutely to remove the obstacles that still divide our society and strengthen the many ties that bind us together."
Ramaphosa said former president Nelson Mandela had "cautioned us not to be captivated by the allure of the achievement of freedom".
"Though we have climbed a great hill, he said, we dare not linger, because there are many more hills to climb. Though we have achieved a constitutional democracy in which all have equal rights, we dare not linger, because we still have much to do to build an inclusive economy that serves all our people."
"Tremendous strides" in improving the economic participation of black South Africans and women have been made, Rampahosa said, and the middle class had grown significantly.
"Despite the great disparities in opportunity, we have emerging a new generation of black entrepreneurs, managers, professionals and artisans. The considerable rise over the last two decades in the number of learners in school and the number of students enrolled in higher education places South Africa in a strong position to achieve inclusive growth and development.
"We have done much to reduce poverty through social grants, access to health care and the provision of houses to the poor. However, if we are to end poverty, then we need to create much broader economic opportunities. We need to grow our economy and create decent work."
Investment on a greater scale needed to be attracted, Ramaphosa said, and education and skills training needed to be improved.
"At the same time, we need to transform the ownership, control and management of the economy so that black South Africans and women are fully represented and equally benefit. In short, we need to intensify radical economic transformation."
Government was working to "deracialise our economy" by strengthening broad-based black economic empowerment policies, investing in black industrialists, opening up markets for new black entrants through more effective competition policies, and using the buying power of the state to support black business, Ramaphosa added.