Prevalence and Complications of Diabetes Mellitus in Northern Africa

A Systematic Review

Manouk Bos; Charles Agyemang


BMC Public Health. 2013;13(387) 

In This Article


Type 2 diabetes is increasingly becoming a major chronic disease health burden in Africa. In 2011, about 14 million individuals were estimated to have diabetes in Africa, and this is expected to rise to 28 million by 2030.[1]

The highest increase is seen in urban areas.[2] Changing patterns of diet, physical activity, and ageing populations are thought to be the major drivers of the increasing prevalence of diabetes in Africa.[3] Cheap availability of high-fat and high-energy food in combination with less physical activity has led to the increasing prevalence of obesity.[4] Obesity can cause impaired glucose tolerance, which can lead to increased susceptibility to diabetes manifestation.

In 2011, a systematic review summarized the prevalence and outcomes of diabetes in the Sub-Saharan Africa.[5] It confirmed the increase in diabetes prevalence and its complications in the Sub-Saharan Africa. The authors concluded that when effective interventions are implemented in the near-future it may be possible to avert the diabetes burden in this region. This requires a shift in global health priorities and therefore more evidence on prevalence and areas of intervention is needed.

While a systematic review in the Sub-Saharan Africa shows a clear increase in the prevalence of diabetes, the diabetes situation in Northern Africa has not yet been systematically assessed. Mapping the situation can be an important base for policy on diabetes prevention and treatment. Therefore the main aim of this review was to fill this knowledge gap by providing an up-to-date overview on diabetes prevalence and related microvascular complications including retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy and microalbuminuria in North Africa.