Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Tuesday that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), which aims to upgrade and build 561 km of road, was a "showpiece for the rest of the content".
Speaking during a tour of the GFIP, he said that the infrastructure project was helping South Africa to move towards becoming a developed country.
"We must move away from a developing country to a developed country, and what will help us to qualify as that, is firstly a democracy and secondly infrastructure."
Ndebele added that if South Africa had not won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup next year, it would have been hard for government to justify the budget needed for the GFIP, the first phase of which would cost R15,1-billion.
"For those sceptics that wonder what 2010 would mean for South Africa, it has delivered the most sophisticated infrastructure on the continent," he said.
The first phase of the GFIP would upgrade 185 km of freeway network in Gauteng. Further phases would include 223 km of upgrades and new roads of 158 km.
Construction on the project started in June 2008 and would be completed in 2011.
In late September, South African National Roads Agency senior project manager Alex van Niekerk said that the GFIP was around 33% complete.
Traffic in the Gauteng area had reached a stage where heavy congestion inhibited economic growth, which led to frustration and loss of productivity of road users, and damaged the environment through excessive emissions.