The burden of type 2 diabetes is increasing rapidly, not least in Sub-Saharan Africa, and disadvantaged populations are disproportionally affected. Self-management is a key strategy for people at risk of or with type 2 diabetes, but implementation is a challenge. The objective of this study is to assess the determinants of self-management from an implementation perspective in three settings: two rural districts in Uganda, an urban township in South Africa, and socio-economically disadvantaged suburbs in Sweden. Data collection followed an exploratory multiple-case study design, integrating data from interviews, focus group discussions, and observations. Data collection and analysis were guided by a contextualized version of a transdisciplinary framework for self-management. Findings indicate that people at risk of or with type 2 diabetes are aware of major self-management strategies, but fail to integrate these into their daily lives. Depending on the setting, opportunities to facilitate implementation of self-management include: improving patient-provider interaction, improving health service delivery, and encouraging community initiatives supporting self-management. Modification of the physical environment (e.g. accessibility to healthy food) and the socio-cultural environment (i.e. norms, values, attitudes, and social support) may have an important influence on people's lifestyle. Regarding the study methodology, we learned that this innovative approach can lead to a comprehensive analysis of self-management determinants across different settings. An important barrier was the difficult contextualization of concepts like perceived autonomy and self-efficacy. Intervention studies are needed to confirm whether the pathways suggested by this study are valid and to test the proposed opportunities for change.