Diabetes trends in Arab nations: This app may be the answer

Managing a chronic disease like diabetes can be exhausting and hard to keep up with.

Image used for illustrative purposes. Diabetic person has his blood sugar level measured.

Image used for illustrative purposes. Diabetic person has his blood sugar level measured.

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
03 August 2017

Managing a chronic disease like diabetes can be exhausting and hard to keep up with, and Ahmed Zayed saw first-hand just what happened when his father forgot to take his medicine or wasn’t motivated enough to go out for some exercise.

It was this experience with the disease that led Ahmed to co-create Mazboot, the world’s first Arabic-language diabetes management app. Mazboot works by helping users track their blood sugar along with doses of medication required, and it also connects users to a personal online consultant as well as a community of fellow sufferers.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, six countries from the Arab world are included in the top 13, measured in percentage of people between the ages of 20 and 79 who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes sufferers account for 20 per cent of the Saudi population, 19.3 per cent of the UAE population, and 16.7 per cent of the Egyptian population.


In 2011, around the time when he thought of the concept, Ahmed was volunteering with an NGO to help raise awareness of diabetes in his hometown of Menoufia. It was there he met his partner-to-be and now co-founder of Mazboot, Tarek Mandour. The duo put their heads (and most of their savings) together to come up with a prototype that took almost three years to conceive.

“Graduating from medical school and specialising in clinical pathology helped me acquaint myself with the disease and encounter all the complications and pitfalls,” Ahmed told MySalaam, adding that all the info on the app is ADA-approved and that updates are made weekly so that the app is in line with the latest global standards.

“Being a doctor meant knowing the importance of evidence-based data, and that’s why people trust Mazboot. It took us almost three years to put together a qualified team, collect the necessary funds, and receive the necessary training to run our own business.”

But being miles away from Cairo also made it hard for them to acquire information. Luckily for them, the duo came across an entrepreneurship programme in Menoufia aimed at stabilising communities that offered all the essential training they needed to launch.

“The [IOM-Innovety Entrepreneurship Training] programme held a competition at the end, asking us to put together a solid prototype that would compete with all the other entries that participated. To our surprise, we won the grand prize of EGP50,000 [USD2,800].”

Winning that money motivated the duo to launch a more advanced and developed version of Mazboot, which debuted on World Diabetes Day 2016, a year after their win.


A few months later, Mazboot participated in Mobile Application Launchpad, or MAL, hosted by MCIT and Google Inc., to help the young talents engage in mobile app development across Egypt.

“Participating in MAL taught us a lot. From developing to marketing our app to putting together and writing a business plan; by the end of the programme we felt like we needed to discard our prototype and start over,” Ahmed continued.

Mazboot came in second place in the MAL competition and won USD10,000. That money helped Ahmed and Tarek release a better version of Mazboot, one that has received 4,500 downloads to date.

“Last March, we partnered with the Pan Arab Conference on Diabetes, held in Cairo, to introduce Mazboot to over 1,000 doctors worldwide. That helped validate Mazboot and offered doctors a handy follow-up tool that they can recommend to their clients in any part of the world,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed and Tarek have now set their sights on an ambitious target for Egyptian and GCC users. “Right now, we’re working on enhancing Mazboot to reach its full potential; we’re aiming at 50,000 downloads by the end of the year in Egypt and the GCC,” Ahmed revealed. “Hopefully by 2019 we’ll be developing a hardware solution that turns your smartphone into a glucometer.”

© My Salaam 2017

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