Focus on an Alumni Achiever: Maxwell Saungweme Stellenbosch Business School Skip to main content
Maxwell is a political commentator and an operations management professional

Maxwell is a political commentator and an operations management professional. He has over 16 years of programme design, development and management experience in many countries, including Zimbabwe, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Afghanistan. He holds both a Masters in Development Studies as well as in Development Finance. Maxwell currently resides in Nigeria and works for an NGO called Search for Common Ground.

The impact of studying development finance at the USB: 

  • What has impressed Maxwell greatly is the diversity of lecturers at the USB – scholars from all over the world. Black African scholars, white scholars and visiting professors allowed him to gain an international and a Pan-African perspective, which is particularly useful in his field of work.
  • Graduating with a Masters in Development Finance from the USB gave him a greater level of authority and respect in industry.

The richness and relevance of his experience at the USB is evident in that his work is recognised and applicable not only in Nigeria, but spreading to other countries, such as Zimbabwe and Ghana.

  • From a career point of view, he finds that people are more interested in him because of the combination of his degrees: a Masters in Development Studies and a Masters in Development Finance. Maxwell found employment immediately after graduating from the USB. He firmly believes that this was the result of his degree and the respect that the university enjoys world-wide. Maxwell currently holds the position of Deputy Director for a large international NGO in Nigeria, Search for Common Ground.
  • In terms of his expertise and working for an NGO, studying has helped him to become a more rounded person, moving him from Operations Management to understanding Finance as well. He started appreciating that for development to happen one needs to understand how important access to finances is. As an NGO they receive money, such as bilateral grants from outside donors, but there is also a need to be financially sustainable. He is able to discuss this with his Finance Director and help shape the course of finance in his organisation.
  • The research he conducted as part of his degree fulfillment was on the financial sustainability of local NGOs. Since his graduation, Maxwell has been able to put into practice many of the findings and recommendations from his studies. Learning the financial side of development has made him drive this vision of a financially sustainable NGO, inculcating a culture of social corporate responsibility, and of raising funds within the organisation while reducing operational costs.
  • Maxwell is able to give examples of effective and financially sustainable NGOs in South Africa based on the exposure to these NGOs through studying at the USB. Examples include: Running services and charging fees for those services. With this insight, NGOs are starting to raise money by selling products and ploughing that money back into their nonprofit work. His current organisation owns big open spaces, part of which they now rent out for a fee to support some of their institutional structures.
  • He has learned about the delicate link between the profit-making aspects of NGOs while maintaining their nonprofit status.
  • The insistence on financial sustainability has led to frank assessments relating to budgeting and financial planning for the organisation as the focal point in assessing whether they are able to generate some form of income with the resources available to them. Maxwell has started to ensure that the sub-grants which Search for Common Ground provides, support institutional capacities of other NGOs and promote their long-term financial sustainability.
  • He has become a recognised voice on sustainability topics in the development sector, thereby driving policy changes for NGOs and influencing donor policies in Africa. He has influenced funding decisions by donors in Nigeria and Zimbabwe to support local NGOs and has ensured they also provide funding that helps develop financial sustainability systems.
  • He develops weekly context updates in Nigeria which are sent out by his organisation to current and potential donors. He does commentary in the South African and Zimbabwe media on social, economic and political issues. Some of the ideas, level of analysis and the skills to do so he believes he gained at the USB. He is a known commentator on key issues in the development sector and his analysis has improved significantly since he completed his studies.
  • The richness and relevance of his experience at the USB is evident in that his work is recognised and applicable not only in Nigeria, but spreading to other countries, such as Zimbabwe and Ghana. The Pan- African influence and exposure gained through the various USB Development Finance lecturers has had a lot to do with this.
  • ​Maxwell appears in various media platforms – interviews on CNBC Africa, newspapers like The Herald, and online platforms such as Bulawayo24, and others, again influencing public opinion.


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