The ANCYL insisted on Thursday that Section 25 of the Constitution, which deals with property ownership, be amended.
There needed to be expropriation of land without compensation, and the nationalisation of mines, African National Congress Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola said at policy talks in Pretoria.
"We need to break the apartheid economy we received in 1994. White people are still living a Hollywood lifestyle... while the majority are still living a third world lifestyle."
Most black South Africans were relying on social grants to survive.
"The majority of South Africans are not living below the poverty line because they are getting a social grant," he said.
However, they needed to start playing a meaningful role in sectors like agriculture and mining.
Lamola said the "willing buyer, willing seller" approach to land restitution was not working. He said the land was taken and people were enslaved so others could make a profit.
"They had cheap labour... that made them profit. Why must we compensate them? The only solution is expropriation without compensation."
Lamola was giving a political overview at ANCYL talks on "economic freedom in our lifetime" at the University of SA.
The ANCYL would take its views to the ANC's national policy conference in Midrand next week.
Final year politics student Maryna Laas said that when she heard the ANCYL talk she felt excluded because she was "white and Afrikaans".
Yet, she was passionate about South Africa and wanted to help in making a change. She did not believe that taking land without compensation would solve even half the country's problems.
Laas said the only way to solve the country's problems was to educate the poor.
"There is a lack of skills... Government needs to put all the money into education."
Bursaries needed to be given to anyone who wanted to study further after school.
Another student agreed with Laas.
"There is no use giving hand-outs. Take people to school and educate them," she said.
"We can't be angry... there is so much hate and bitterness."
She asked the ANCYL what would happen after the land was taken.
"How do we know people will benefit?"
She felt that only those spearheading the campaign for land would benefit.
A number of students disagreed, saying there was corporate greed and only the white minority was benefiting from the economy.
Earlier, Lamola said young people had to be given a platform in the mainstream economy so they could play a meaningful role in society.
"The solutions to economic challenges... [are] in the minds of young people, who are idling in the townships. If young people are leaders of society... why are they outside the mainstream of economy?" he asked.
He said maximum participation in the economy was class- and race-based.
"It only allows a particular class to participate in the mainstream economy."
Lamola said it was because of this that Section 25 of the Constitution needed to be amended.