J.P. Bilbrey
J.P. Bilbrey. Photo: Business Wire

The Hershey Co. president and CEO J.P. Bilbrey will help advise President Barack Obama on commercial relationships with African nations.

The Secretary of Commerce appointed the chocolate executive to the newly established President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, which has the goal to strengthen business relationships between the United States and Africa.

The role is a great fit for Bilbrey because he has experience in the continent, as Hershey has sourced cocoa from West Africa.

The company also works to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and communities through programs such as Learn to Grow, which provides both agricultural training for farmers and education for children, and commitments to improve sustainability and reduce child labor.

“It is a great honor to be selected and to serve on this advisory council to our President,” Bilbrey says. “Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies and represents an exciting opportunity for our government and U.S. businesses.”

And, the commercial relationships built through the program won’t just be beneficial to African business and people.

“Economic growth on the continent will continue to drive demand for U.S. exports, which will ultimately help create jobs at home and provide valuable investment opportunities for U.S. businesses,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker explains.

The 15 private sector leaders on the council will guide the president on strengthening business partnerships between African nations and U.S. companies who want to support the continent, as well as offering analysis and recommendations on job creation, financing and policies dealing with trade and investment interests.

In August, Obama made a step to encourage such developments when he signed an order to promote economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic by encouraging U.S. companies to trade with and invest in Africa. The order directed the Secretary of Commerce to create the council in light of this new commitment, made at the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum.

While serving on the council, Bilbrey will remain as the top executive of Hershey, which has about 13,000 employees around the world and brings in more than $7.1 billion in annual revenue. Known for its confections, the company is also beginning to expand into other categories, and it continues to seek a growing presence in international markets.