(CNN) - President Barack Obama, who's tour of Africa this week includes a stop in South Africa, said Thursday his thoughts are with the nation's citizens as anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela remains critically ill.
"He is a personal hero, but I'm not unique in that regard," Obama told CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin in Dakar, Senegal, the first stop of his African tour.
"I think he's a hero for the world and if/when he passes, we know his legacy will linger on throughout the ages," the president said.
Obama's visit to South Africa on Saturday will include a visit to Robben Island, where Mandela spent a majority of his prison term. The White House schedule does not include a visit with the anti-apartheid icon.
After South Africa, Obama heads to Tanzania, his last stop before he heads back to Washington.