The FIFA Soccer World Cup, which kicks off in 12 days' time, must be used to deepen the understanding of shared African cultures and must promote cooperation between Africans, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.
Speaking at a gala dinner to celebrate Africa Day, which was celebrated on Tuesday, Zuma said that sport could unite the continent and help to establish peace.
"This international event, to which all of us can rightly claim ownership, should be used to deepen our understanding of our shared cultures and ensure that dialogue and cooperation among Africans is promoted," he said.
The theme for Africa Day was Building and Maintaining Peace through Sport in Africa.
Zuma said that South Africa was a good example of how sport is able to bridge ethnic, social, cultural and religious divides.
"When Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela lifted the Rugby World Cup trophy in 1995 and the African Cup of Nations trophy the following year, our nation became one, confirming that we are a nation united in its diversity."
Zuma said that it was important for Africa to fully use the socialeconomic opportunities that the World Cup presented.
He said that sport could also contribute to Africa's struggle for dignity, liberty and justice. "
It is a medium through which goodwill is generated, trust and confidence built and respect gained.
"Africa's love for football is legendary and our great players are world renowned for their soccer prowess.
"This in itself can be used to initiate grassroots efforts towards peace."
He congratulated the five African nations whose soccer teams have qualified for the Word Cup.
"To all participating African countries, especially the players, they should know that they carry the hopes of all Africans on their shoulders."