Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has encouraged young Africans to forge ahead and "colonise" the world.
"Go out into the continent and the world and colonise it. Colonise the world with your African talent," he said at the African Renaissance Conference in Durban on Thursday.
In a speech that steered away from any political rhetoric, Ramaphosa - who is one of the front-runners to take over from President Jacob Zuma as leader of the African National Congress in December - said Africa needed to unite to integrate its economies and trade within the continent.
"Africa will remain vulnerable to international elites, unless it acts against poverty."
He said Africa was waiting for young people to take over.
"Africa awaits to embrace and support your endeavours, young people. It will be a strong, warm embrace."
He said Africans had been the first to colonise the world, as the continent was the cradle of humankind.
'Look deep into your DNA'
"This means that the earliest Africans left the continent and explored the world. They did not limit themselves. The young must think the same.
"Look deep into your DNA and find... [that] innovative talent that went out to colonise the rest of the world from this continent."
According to Ramaphosa, imperialism flourished in Africa because the colonialists "made us believe some of the worst lies".
"Through brute force, through the plunder of our resources, the enslavement of minds and bodies - Africans were stripped of their humanity and dignity."
He said that Africans were reduced to "unimaginative primitive savages, content with subsistence living".
"This conference should be about affirming our collective self-worth as a people and our initiative to develop on our continent. It should be about giving space and opportunity for growth.
"We are the authors of Africa's inevitable future. We are not Africans because we are born in Africa, but because Africa is born in us."