"Now we have to ignite the flame of higher inclusive growth, and sustain it," Pravin Gordhan told parliament in his nationally televised budget speech.
The 3.4 percent growth is 0.1 point less than the forecast four months ago and falls short of a sought-after seven percent, but is the second annual positive rebound after a 1.8 percent contraction in the 2009 recession.
"Strong commodity prices, low interest rates, and faster global growth, have been the main forces behind our economic recovery," said Gordhan, who also announced a 12.3 percent rise in overall tax earnings.
He said economic growth was projected to reach 4.1 percent in 2012 and 4.4 percent in 2013. He forecast a deficit of 5.3 percent for the year, dropping to 3.8 percent in 2013.
The 979.3-billion-rand ($137-billion, 100-billion-euro) budget -- which includes state debt costs of 76.6 billion rand -- prioritises employment but warns faster growth is needed to meet a five million jobs target by 2020.
"What we are now talking about... is moving with a sense of urgency on to a national effort to ensure that we get as close as possible to nine percent (growth)," Gordhan told journalists in a pre-budget briefing.
"The economy must grow faster than four percent and it must get to that magical figure we've been talking about of seven percent."
Besides faster growth, the economy needs macroeconomic stability, reforms in areas like the cost of doing business and a climate for greater investment to approach nine percent, Gordhan said.
Projects include three-year frameworks for a nine-billion-rand job fund and a planned five-billion-rand youth wage subsidy to boost hiring of young workers by 178,000.
"This is not government's problem, it's a national problem," warned Gordhan.
Spending on infrastructure will continue with 800 million rand earmarked over three years for projects to build new power stations, road networks, dams and water supply pipelines, rail and port facilities, schools, hospitals, and government buildings.
Gordhan said measures to curb the rand by easing foreign exchange controls and foreign exchange purchases had seen the currency depreciate by some 10 percent against the dollar, euro and British pound from December to mid-February.