Welfare regimes in Anglophone Africa were in the final phase of colonial rule and the first phase of post-colonial rule characterised by an agrarian approach, focused on preserving or strengthening the peasantry. These later gave way to an approach focused on non-contributory transfers of cash (or food) to the deserving poor through social assistance, food aid and public employment programmes. Social insurance, focused on workers, played a marginal role. This paper first examines the distinctiveness of these welfare regimes in a comparative perspective, and then examines the politics of welfare-state-building through a series of country case-studies. The case of Mauritius reveals the obstacles to adopting social insurance. The case of Zambia reveals the obstacles to adopting social assistance. The cases of Zimbabwe and Malawi reveal how and why democratisation might matter.