Kessie, who partnered Serey Die in the midfield had a relatively poor game by his standards as Ibrahim Kamara’s Elephants earned a hard-fought win thanks to Jonathan Kodjia’s 64th-minute strike.
While admitting that South Africa were a tough team, the 22-year-old vowed to step up his game in future Afcon matches.
“It was difficult initially against South Africa because it was our first game and the weather was hot. But the most important thing was to claim all three points at stake which we did,” Kessie told Goal.
“In this type of competition, you don't really have to play beautiful football. It's a competition that involves five to six games, all you need is points in order to progress and that's what we will be doing.
“I know Ivorians are criticising me, but for a player of my calibre who plays at a big club you always expect such criticisms, but what you need to do is respond on the pitch. I am ready for that.”
The 2015 African champions lock horns with Morocco in their next Afcon clash on Friday. Victory over Herve Renard’s side at Al Salam Stadium would guarantee progression into the knockout phase of the competition.