Makonen holds a PhD in Economic History with a concentration in Development Studies from the University of Stockholm. He has about 30 years of development experience working as Programme Officer of UNDP in Lesotho, Rural Development Advisor of SIDA and Deputy Country Director of World Vision in Zambia, Africa Regional Manager of World Vision in Australia and Deputy Regional Director of Opportunity International in Zimbabwe, International Program Director of Christian Transformation Resource Center and Vice President of International Business Development, Opportunity International.

He has also taught, at both under- and post-graduate levels, in development studies at Stockholm University and The Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, where he currently supervises PhD scholars and is chair of the Council of Trustees. Makonen has published several books, pamphlets, and articles on topics related to development, foreign aid, microfinance, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, transformation as well as faith and development.