He was addressing the two-day “25 Years of Democracy Conference” in Johannesburg, which was organised in partnership with the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (Mistra).
The conference, held at the University of Johannesburg, was aimed at providing an in-depth reflective analysis on lessons for governance, socio-economic transformation and nation building.
Ramaphosa said the ANC had assumed a virtually collapsed economy when it took power where it was forced to address the crisis of a substantial fiscal deficit, a huge apartheid debt bill and stagnant growth.
He said this defocused the governing party from addressing the structural faults in the economy, which he said had come back to haunt the country.
“Much as we succeeded in turning public finances around and putting the country on an improved growth path, we, however, did not pay attention to addressing the structure of our economy to ensure that all people of our country attain economic emancipation after attaining democratic emancipation,” Ramaphosa said.
He said despite significant economic progress under former president Thabo Mbeki in the years leading up to the global financial crisis of 2008, unemployment and poverty had increased over the last decade, with millions of South Africans remaining excluded through lack of assets, skills and networks.
Ramaphosa said progress that had been achieved, including indicators of social progress from the growth in the size of the black middle class to an improvement in educational access, had been undermined by stagnant growth, decline in investment, maladministration and corruption.
He said his administration would have to be realistic about what it could achieve in the next five years and work hard on a set of priorities.
“In attempting to do too much and not co-ordinating our actions within and between departments, we have been found wanting.
“This administration has identified key tasks within a defined set of focus areas that are realistic and achievable within the next five years. Growing an inclusive economy is by far our greatest area of focus.,” he said.