Macron, who founded a political movement called En Marche in April and left the government of President François Hollande in August, said in a speech near Paris that he was ready to take up the challenge.
According to excerpts of his speech posted on Twitter, Macron said he rejected a political system that he described as the chief obstacle to the transformation of his country.
"In a few months, with the presidential elections, we will be given an opportunity: to refuse the status quo and decide to advance. Because the fight we have to wage to make our country succeed will begin in May 2017," he said.
"To conduct it, the responsibility of the President of the Republic is enormous, I'm fully conscious of that ... I am ready. That is why I am a candidate to the Presidency of the Republic. Because I believe, more than anyone else, that we can make it, that France can make it."
Macron, who previously worked in the financial world, said his aim was not to bring together either the right or the left, but to unite the French people.
He also vowed to bring France into the 21st century in his announcement, made in the northeastern Paris suburb of Bobigny.
Hollande, whose first term in office expires next year, has not yet said whether he will seek a second term.
The President, who leads the Socialist Party, has struggled with low approval ratings amid wide public concern over jobs, immigration and security.
Contenders for the presidency
In August, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he would run for the presidency again next year. He belongs to the Republicans, a center-right party formerly known as the Union for a Popular Movement.
He is one of seven politicians, including former Prime Ministers Alain Juppé and François Fillon, who will compete in a new, US primary-style vote this month to be selected as the center-right candidate.
It's not clear what impact Macron's independent candidacy would have on the prospects of that candidate, or on whoever stands on the left.
The leader of France's far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, is also expected to be a leading contender for the presidency.
She told CNN on Tuesday that the election of Donald Trump in the United States "shows that people are taking their future back
," suggesting that French voters could do the same.
Her hope is that the recent rise in populist parties will continue in April and May when French voters go to the polls to elect a new President.